Suburban sex offenders living near schools despite new rules

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by Diane Moca

WEST ALLIS – Despite ordinances prohibiting sex offenders from living around places where kids gather, a recent investigation turned up child predators with addresses near schools and parks.

In the 53214 zip code, CBS 58 found 66 sex offenders, with 33 convicted of crimes involving children, and nine of them living within 1000 feet of a school.

That's not much different than a CBS 58 investigation turned up in April 2011, when 79 sex offenders lived in that zip code, including 40 whose victims were kids and eight of them living less than half a mile from West Milwaukee Middle School.

At that time, the school district and police department did not know three registered sex offenders were living in a building directly behind the school.

That convinced the police chief to push harder for an ordinance restricting where sex offenders could live in West Milwaukee and to mandate that his department check the state registry four times a year to track down offenders who have slipped into town.

The ordinance took effect in May 2011, and the quarterly searches turn up new sex offender residents regularly.

The latest search uncovered two new residents in violation of the ordinance.

“So we found those and had a conversation with them about the fact they are in violation of our village ordinance,” explained West Milwaukee Police Chief Dennis Nasci. “They have to move.”

That's because the West Milwaukee ordinance prohibits child sex offenders from living within 1000 feet of schools, parks, recreation trails and other places frequented by children.

“For us I think it's made a tremendous difference,” said Chief Nasci.

But the West Milwaukee police cannot make an offender move if he already lived next to a school before the ordinance took effect, such as one offender who still lives in the building behind West Milwaukee Midde School.

West Allis Detective Don Krueger says his department faces similar issues – trying to keep up with sex offenders renting or buying homes that violate their ordinance passed in 2007.

“These people sometimes will move into West Allis, and we here at the police department don't know about it,” noted Detective Krueger.

Just because a sex offender is listed on the state registry does not mean that criminal will be tracked by law enforcement or their activities restricted.

Sex offenders who have completed their probation can pass out Halloween candy to children, although child predators currently under state supervision cannot.

All sex offenders on the registry need to verify their address periodically to the state, and all of them must abide by local community restrictions controlling where they can live.

But many do not follow those rules because the state department of corrections only records, updates and publicizes sex offenders' addresses after they are no longer on probation, but does not approve or disapprove them.

That's one reason police say many child predators end up living near schools and parks, even in communities where that is not allowed.

Police team up with parole officers periodically to check on high-risk offenders, but such visits only include a fraction of the more than 23,000 registered sex offenders on the state list.

“No matter where you go, you'll find sex offenders,” noted Detective Krueger.

If you have an issue you'd like us to investigate, send an email to dmoca@cbs58.com.

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