Thursday, April 1, 2010
Carmel on the Case: Too Close For Comfort
It's always a concern when a convicted criminal moves into the neighborhood, but when it's a sex offender and there are dozens of them within a block of your home, it can be too close for comfort. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero with one neighborhood's story.
WSVN -- There was nothing good about the makeshift camp a hundred or so convicted sex offenders set up under the Julia Tuttle Causeway in Miami. It was no way for people to live and it fouled the environment.
So officials moved them out. Thirteen ended up in Julio Betancourt's neighborhood. So now he keeps his gates locked and his young children inside.
Julio Betancourt: "You can't lose. Lose any track of your children at any moment. It's very concerning."
Carmel Cafiero: "So it's almost like a constant threat?"
Julio Betancourt: "Yes it is."
Donna Milo who lives next door to the family, discovered dozens of other sex offenders were already living near their homes.
Donna Milo: "So within one mile there was 47, but there was a large concentration within 500 feet. 500 feet is less than one block."
According to state records, there are eight sexual predators living in the neighborhood. Most of their victims were under 12-years-old. The other 39 sexual offenders are listed as having committed everything from lewd and lascivious behavior to sexual battery with a weapon or force, and they are all living in a small area of Miami just off 79th Street and the bay.
Donna Milo: "I'm convinced that it's bad news because my neighbor when he found out about this, he won't even let his daughter come outside."
Dr. Lori Butts is a forensic psychologist, she thinks there are too many offenders here.
Dr. Lori Butts: "It creates an environment of fear for the families and their children."
Dr. Butts says having this many offenders in one neighborhood makes it almost impossible for neighbors to keep an eye on them.
Dr. Lori Butts: "OK, there's 50. How do you know 50 names 50 faces? Who is a sex offender? Who isn't a sex offender? And who to be scared of?"
Sex offenders have ended up under bridges and clustering in neighborhoods because of residency restrictions that limit where they can live. Those restrictions are designed to keep offenders away from schools and playgrounds, but Dr. Butts says that law is now doing more harm than good.
Dr. Lori Butts: "It's exactly doing the opposite of what the good intended lawmakers were trying to do, and it's a shame."
The homeless trust in Miami helped moved the sex offenders from under the bridge to Donna's neighborhood. She doesn't think that's right.
Donna Milo: "It's certainly a bad policy to take money that, that is dedicated for people that are victims of economic strife, of hardship that are homeless by no choice of their own and we're spending this money to house offenders."
The homeless trust couldn't tell us how much money was spent to relocate the sex offenders. Chairman Ron Book says federal stimulus money along with homeless trust funds financed the effort and it was an appropriate use.
Ron Book: "But no priority is given to offenders and predators. Wherever they fit into the order of preference is when they got on our list, and we find a place and they're willing to go there that's when they get placed."
And book insists not one offender or predators was moved at the expense of a more deserving person.
Ron Book: "Won't happen on my clock. I've been chairman of the Homeless Trust for 16 and a half years and it won't happen."
Carmel Cafiero: "Book says as long as sex offenders are released and limited in where they can live clustering issues will continue to cause problems in some neighborhoods. In this case, residents have upgraded security systems and now they live Locked Up."