SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) - Level 3 sex offenders living within feet of daycare centers, schools, and after-school programs; it’s a disturbing trend that the 22News I-Team discovered is happening in western Massachusetts.
The I-Team matched the addresses of Level 3 sex offenders with daycare centers and after-school programs, and found dozens in Springfield are located in the same neighborhood, on the same street, and even right next door to each other.
Springfield Police Sgt. John Delaney told the I-Team the city used to have an ordinance in place that banned registered Level 3 sex offenders from living within 500 feet of schools, but that ordinance can no longer be enforced; “They can live next to a school, or a park, or a playground.”
Delaney explained that in 2015, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the city of Lynn could not severely restrict where sex offenders live in their city. The ruling set a precedent for 49 other communities that had restrictions on where Level 2 and 3 sex offenders live, including Springfield.
“In the past, when people did live near these areas. The detectives would have to make sure that they either moved, or they violated their sex offender registry status, and they'd be arrested, but it's not that case anymore,” Delaney said.
The I-Team uncovered, 17 Level 3 sex offenders live within 500 feet of daycare centers and after-school programs in Springfield. Many of them live even closer than that.
- 15 live within 300 feet
- 7 live within 200 feet
- 7 live within 100 feet
- 5 live within 50 feet
The Square One on King Street in Springfield is located 282 feet away from a Level 3 sex offender; to put that into perspective, a football field is 360 feet. Over on Eastern Avenue in Springfield, the I-Team found another Level 3 sex offender who lives less than 400 feet from the Eastern Avenue Head Start. The I-Team called both daycare centers.
Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services in Springfield is one of the after-school programs on our list. According to address the I-Team obtained on the state’s Sex Offender Registry Board, one Level 3 sex offender lives 39 feet away from the after-school program, and another Level 3 sex offender lives just inches from the center.
Ronn Johnson, the President of MLK Jr. Family Services told the I-Team, he wasn’t aware two criminals with a history of raping and abusing children lived just feet away from their building before our investigation.
Johnson said they do have measures in place to keep children safe. Their doors are always locked, and in order to get inside, visitors must be buzzed in. He also said they have greeters who meet the children outside when the bus drops them off, and brings them back outside at the end of the day when the bus comes to pick them up. If a child doesn’t take a bus, a parent or guardian must sign them out before they leave. No child is allowed to walk home, unless it’s with a parent.
Johnson said they are also involved in C3 Policing. “We have lots of concerns in this community, but I think it's important for us to be educated, to know what's in our environment, and to act accordingly,” he said.
State Representative Jose Tosado told the I-Team, more needs to be done. “Does it place children at risk? Absolutely it places children at risk.”
Tosado also said he believes the court's decision to prohibit communities from placing residency restrictions on sex offenders puts everyone in danger. “I think by striking down the ability of local communities to have these kinds of ordinances really does jeopardize the health and safety of local children,” he said.
Representative Tosado filed a bill last month that would reinstate residency restrictions for sex offenders across the state. He said the bill would be similar to the ordinance that was once implemented in Springfield.
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Springfield: Level 3 sex offenders and daycare centers
Greenfield: Level 3 sex offenders and daycare centers
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