Monday, March 16, 2009
7 News Investigations: Too Close for Comfort
How would you feel if you found out more than 100 sex offenders had moved into your neighborhood living right next to you and your children? That is what some Broward County residents are facing tonight in a situation that has them outraged and feeling helpless. Here is investigative reporter Patrick Fraser with this Seven News exclusive.
WSVN -- This man is a convicted sex offender. This man is a convicted sex offender. So is this one and this one. Nine convicted sex offenders, all living in this house in Southwest Broward County.
Heinz Bodmer: "Eight out of those nine that live there have been convicted of crimes against children 16 and younger."
Three blocks away, in this house, not one sex offender that lists this as his home, not nine. According to law enforcement officials, 18 sex offenders live in this home.
Peter Charbonneau: "We have sex offenders who are being imported from all over Florida to live here."
From Orlando, from St. Petersburg, even from Hawaii brought to this neighborhood to this house 1500 feet from an elementary school, and each day the kids walk home from school past the houses filled with sex offenders. Juan Formosa has two little children.
Juan Formosa: "It makes you feel unsafe. It affects, and I pray that none of our children are ever touched by these men."
The neighbors are so frightened one man set up a surveillance camera, so everyone could watch the house from their computers. The teenagers know to be careful and know the younger ones won't be.
When neighbors complained, the County did cite the homeowner for parking on the grass and using the home as a rooming house, but that didn't force the men to move out.
Nine sex offenders in one house, 18 in another, and that is not all. Within a mile of this house, there are 111 convicted sex offenders, child molesters. Why so many? Well, in most parts of South Florida, they have to remain 2500 feet from a school. In this part of Broward, it's only 1,000 feet, and so they are piling in here.
Patrick Fraser: "Would you worry, if you had a kid in the neighborhood, with this house here?"
Randy Young: "I would definitely be concerned if I had a child in this neighborhood, whether this house is here or not."
Randy Young is a convicted sex offender. He owns the house with nine sex offenders and says he rents the one with 18. He agreed to talk with us but didn't want to show his face.
Patrick Fraser: "They're afraid. Should they be afraid?"
Randy Young: "Really in this neighborhood, in this house right here, I think I have screened out any potentially dangerous people."
Young charges the men $500 a month. He says, among his tenants, a doctor, a former school teacher and this 86-year-old World War II veteran. Young knows they are not welcome here and has a solution, let him take the sex offenders out of the neighborhood and move them into an industrial area far from schools, kids or adults.
Randy Young: "I believe that the offenders who are living on the street would flock to such a place. I think that the people in house number 22 would love to go there where they could have more than the law requires of 50 square feet. They could actually have a little apartment, built inside of the warehouse."
The homes that Young is filling with sex offenders is in Commissioner John Rodstrom's district. He will ask fellow commissioners to change the law to force the sex offenders out of this neighborhood and likes the idea of moving them into industrial areas.
John Rodstrom, Broward County Commissioner: "So, it is just trying to find another alternative, and an industrial neighborhood is probably the least offensive to folks."
Patrick Fraser: "Would you be willing to vote to give them a variance to move into a warehouse?"
John Rodstrom: "I would, I would. I think that would make perfect sense."
Perfect sense to the sex offenders and perfect sense to the neighbors who don't care where they go, just go.
Peter Charbonneau: "Myself and all of my neighbors are really, really upset about this, and we will not stand for it."
And if Broward County lets them move into industrial areas, they won't have to stand for it, and the men will have a place to go.