Friday, May 24, 2013
Should Sex Offenders Be Allowed To List City Parks As Residences?
State and city officials disagree about what constitutes an acceptable address in the sex offender registry
ANCHORAGE—The question came up because of John Martin III, the man who's been camping out in front of Anchorage City Hall to protest Mayor Dan Sullivan's policy on taking down homeless camps.
Martin is a registered sex offender, convicted in 1997 of having sex with a 15-year-old girl. Police arrested Martin Wednesday because he wasn't living at the address where he is registered, which happens to be a city park.
Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters says the state requires sex offenders to give their address, but if they happen to be homeless there's not a lot the state can do.
"If somebody doesn't have a place where they live, if they don't have someone who can take them in so that they have a physical address then they live where they can," Peters said. "If it's a wood clearing next to a creek or wherever, we get as much descriptive information as we can as to where they are."
But Anchorage police feel very differently. They say living in a city park is considered illegal camping. And for a sex offender to call that home makes for even bigger problems.
"First of all, it's contrary to municipal code," said Anchorage police Sgt. Mark Rein. "The other thing is that families and children use the park for recreation and we would like to keep the two separate."
Police say sex offenders have a high rate of repeating their crimes and putting them close to children only increases that risk. They have asked the state to consider strengthening the laws about where sex offenders can live. So far, that change has not gone through.