Posters Target Released Sex Offenders -- Police Alarmed By Tone Of Banners In Wallingford
Two unsmiling sex offenders stare from three identical posters at the busy intersection of Wallingford Avenue North and North 45th Street.
``High risk sexual predator alert in our neighborhood!!'' the makeshift posters blare in bold, inch-long type. They even list the recent home phone number of one of the offenders.
The posters began appearing in Wallingford after Seattle police issued press releases late last month about the two offenders to local media and to community groups in Wallingford, where one of the men is living, and in Fremont, where the other lived until earlier this week when he was evicted.
Day-care centers, schools and other groups also were notified.
Although the state's Community Protection Act of 1990 - the so-called sexual predator law - stipulates that law-enforcement officials notify the public when high-risk sex offenders settle in a community, the posters in Wallingford have a vigilante edge. Thus far, no person or group has claimed responsibility for creating and distributing them.
A Seattle police spokesman said the department doesn't sanction the posters and expressed reservations about their tone.
``This isn't what (the sexual predator law) was designed for,'' said SPD spokesman Mark Amundson. ``It wasn't meant to step on anybody's individual rights or scare people to death. I think this is out of bounds.''
Gregory Hill, a Wallingford Community Council officer, said protection of the neighborhood's children is his overriding concern. ``Everybody was upset that these men are not in jail permanently,'' said Hill, who has a daughter in grade school.
``My priority is keeping children safe. I think you should do that first, then try to worry about the other thing.''
But one of the offenders, a 49-year-old man released June 28 from Indian Ridge Corrections Center, says the posters are a cruel tactic that are making the difficult challenges he faces next to impossible.
The man, who lost his job last week, said he was evicted from his mother's Fremont apartment because the landlord discovered his criminal history. He said he planned to move into a hotel until he and his mother could find an apartment they can afford.
``As distraught as I am,'' he said, ``the only urge I have is to get back to work.''
The sex offenders' criminal histories, detailed on the posters, is accurate, SPD's Amundson said.
The most recent convictions of the Fremont man include two counts of first-degree statutory rape of a 7-year-old girl in 1987. During a pre-sentencing investigation in 1987, the man said he told investigators he had been attracted to young girls all his life.
The man, who's 6 feet tall and weighs 225 pounds, also acknowledged being a sexual offender since he was 16.
The man, who has a bachelor's degree in biology, said he hasn't been given a chance since his release. He was fired after one day's work at a construction company when a corrections officer talked with his employer about his criminal history.
Vicki Roberts, correctional program manager with the Department of Corrections, said an officer called because the job required the man to be in the field unsupervised. ``He has a history of cruising for victims,'' she said.
The man said he knows he needs counseling for his problem
but can't afford it and that he receives no public-assistance income. ``The state says there's all these counselors who don't charge too much,'' he said. ``Well, right now, 50 cents is too much.''
``I think the attraction is still there, but I think I have control over it,'' he added. ``I think that I should be given the chance to show that I am in control to start my life anew and not be hounded to death.''
The man's 74-year-old mother said she works part-time as a nurse to help support her son, her only relative in this country.
``With his background, I understand the public opinion, but he's trying to make things better,'' she said. ``And he is my son. He's my only child. He's desperate and destitute. He's going to be on the street if I don't help him.''
The other man, now living in Wallingford, was released Feb. 15 from the Twin Rivers Corrections Center. He's 42, 6 feet tall and weighs 155 pounds. He was convicted last year in Snohomish County for the statutory rape of a 12-year-old boy.
Before sentencing, the acknowledged pedophile admitted having sex with ``50 or 60 victims in the last 20 years,'' said SPD's Amundson.
The man also had prior convictions for sexual acts with children in Oregon and California. In one of those cases, he received five-years probation and a six-month suspended sentence, according to a SPD press release.
Roberts, of the Corrections Department, said the odds favor both men committing similar crimes again. ``It's probably high if you look at their history,'' Roberts said. Neither man received psychological counseling while in the state corrections system. But the former Fremont man did have outpatient counseling for sexual deviancy 10 years ago, she said.
Hill, of the Wallingford Community Club, said he doesn't believe vigilante efforts to drive sex offenders out of the neighborhood help anyone.
``These two individuals are part of a bigger problem. Targeting these guys doesn't solve the problem. If you drive them out of one neighborhood, they just move on to another neighborhood. . . . I think the solution lies with tougher sentencing laws.''
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