TERRE HAUTE —
Do you know everyone who lives in your neighborhood?
Not just the folks next door, but everyone who lives within a mile of your home?
If you live in a dense city neighborhood, chances are the answer is “no.” Truth is, even if you don’t really know them, there are some residents you should be aware of.
The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that about 80 percent of all addresses have at least one sex offender living within a 1-mile radius. And, more than half of rapes and sexual assaults occur within a mile of the victim’s home.
“I know who lives in my neighborhood, but that’s because of my job,” said Bill Watson, director of the Vigo County Community Corrections program, which monitors some people with criminal convictions who have returned to the community at large.
“As a parent, when my children were younger, I checked the sex-offender registry to see who was in my neighborhood,” Watson told the Tribune-Star recently. “No one’s going to hang a sign out saying that they have a sex offender living there.”
Where sex offenders reside in Vigo County became a more heightened concern earlier this month, when a convicted sex offender was arrested for allegedly abducting and molesting a young girl who was living with her family in the same extended-stay motel in Terre Haute. Timothy Blazier, 50, has been charged with child molesting and attempted rape for the April 1 incident that occurred at the EconoLodge motel on Margaret Avenue.
Many Terre Haute residents had no idea about the living arrangement, and voiced outrage. Some even protested with signs at the entrance to the business, alerting the public that the motel allows sex offenders to live there.
After the alleged attack, some people wondered: “Does the public have a right to know that a sex offender could be staying in the same motel as a family with children?”
The answer is “yes,” and the reality is that public notification does occur. But there is no requirement that a motel must notify the public — or even know — if a registered guest is also a registered sex offender.
Because state law requires sex offenders to register with a local law enforcement agency, the public is able to find out where sex offenders are residing at any given time. If that residence is at an extended-stay motel, such as the EconoLodge, that address shows up on the local Offender Watch website, accessible by the public.
“The state spent a lot of time and money developing the website as a tool to keep the public informed,” said Steve Luce, a retired sheriff who is now executive director of the Indiana Sheriffs’ Association. The ISA spearheaded development of the Offender Watch program in cooperation with the Department of Correction, and all 92 Indiana counties are now using the same software to track offenders and to notify the public.
“I think a lot of time, the public doesn’t take the time to research and use these tools,” Luce told the Tribune-Star as he was traveling to a regional sheriff’s meeting to discuss law enforcement issues. “The sheriffs’ association tries to promote this as a free tool to the public as much as we can.”
In fact, the sheriffs’ association has scheduled six regional meetings since April 2 to meet with DOC officials and sheriffs to address registry concerns, as well as changes in state law and sentencing guidelines.
“We are trying to work with them all to come up with good solutions, so that incidents like the EconoLodge don’t happen,” Luce said. “We are trying to help offenders be compliant, and to educate the public.”
Vigo County Sheriff Greg Ewing attended one of those regional meetings in Montgomery County, and he told the Tribune-Star that the EconoLodge incident received a lot of discussion.
“The public needs to exercise due diligence in being informed, and the registry is a good way to find out who lives where,” Ewing said. “People are on the Internet all the time, and this site takes just a few clicks to get registered for alerts. If someone doesn’t have Internet access, they can just call the sheriff’s office, and we will look up information for them on who’s in their neighborhood.”
Ewing noted that most states have some form of registry, so it is also important for people to check their vacation destinations, as well, to see if any registered offenders will be in the vicinity.
Sex offenders can live and work in wealthy areas, middle-class subdivisions and poor neighborhoods. There is no socio-economic stereotype that points out people convicted of a sex crime.
Once convicted, however, those who reside in Indiana must follow the statute IC 11-8-8, which details the responsibilities of convicted offenders, as well as the duties and responsibilities of law enforcement agencies across the state.
By Indiana court order, an offender can be prohibited from residing within 1,000 feet of a school, daycare center, youth program center or public park. An offender who owned a home prior to being convicted can simply return to that home, even if it is located near a school or other prohibited area. However, those who do not own a home must comply with the 1,000-foot rule when finding a place to live. In a city such as Terre Haute, which is dotted with schools and daycare centers, it can be difficult for offenders to find affordable housing that meets the 1,000-foot restriction.
Deputy Bernard Burns of the sheriff’s department is assigned to regularly update Vigo County’s sex offender registry and to have contact with the offenders, themselves.
Burns told the Tribune-Star that he works with the DOC and the offenders as they are released into Vigo County to make sure that the housing they select meets the mandatory distance from a prohibited location. The law enforcement component of the offender registry identifies the radius of each prohibited location, so he can make sure an offender’s address falls in an acceptable area.
The residency restrictions, Burns said, particularly impact offenders with limited economic resources and no family to offer help. The EconoLodge is one of the few locations in Terre Haute that is outside a 1,000-foot zone, and its low price makes it more accessible than a higher-priced hotel.
Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.
State site spearheaded by Indiana Sheriff’s Association
TERRE HAUTE —
Do you know everyone who lives in your neighborhood?
- Local & Bistate
Illinois to ask voters about taxing millionaires
BERWYN, Ill. (AP) — Gov. Pat Quinn has signed legislation allowing voters to weigh in on whether Illinois millionaires should pay more income tax.
Illinois woman dies retrieving phone from fire
BARTONVILLE, Ill. (AP) — Authorities say a central Illinois woman is dead after running back into her burning home to get her cell phone. A police officer who tried to save her was hospitalized.
Ivy Tech names Jeff Fanter senior VP, Anne Valentine VP
Ivy Tech Community College President Thomas J. Snyder announced the promotion of Jeff Fanter to the role of senior vice president for student experience, communications and marketing and Anne Valentine to the role of vice president for student experience and customer service.
Change in traffic patterns at U.S. 41 intersection improvement project
VIGO COUNTY, Ind. – The Indiana Department of Transportation reminds motorists the intersection improvement project on U.S. 41 from just south of Interstate 70 to just south of Johnson Drive has switched traffic phases. Traffic is prohibited from turning left off of U.S. 41 at both Johnson and Davis Drives.
IU commemorating WWI centennial in 2014-15
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana University plans to spend the upcoming academic year exploring the lingering impact of World War I.
Indiana higher ed chief rolls out class load campaign
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana’s higher education commissioner wants college students to get the message that they should take at least 15 credit hours each semester if they expect to graduate on time.
Indiana higher ed chief rolls out class load campaign
Indiana's higher education commissioner wants college students to get the message that they should take at least 15 credit hours each semester if they expect to graduate on time.
Bus safety features
New safety features on South Vermillion School Corp. buses have led to fewer disciplinary problems and fewer incidents of motorists illegally passing stopped school buses, officials say.
Humvee driver says foot caused fatal accident
Kyle Pendergast, 22, the Terre Haute driver of a black Humvee charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated causing the death of a teenager, has told police he could not turn the wheel before the vehicle flipped in a field in an early Saturday morning accident.
Cleaner may have contaminated water
Groundwater and soil testing is set to begin within a week to learn whether toxic chemicals might have seeped into the wells of a small southside neighborhood and even beyond.
Housing Authority’s Warren Village nearing completion
Construction on the newest Terre Haute Housing Authority property – Warren Village – should wrap up next month, a housing authority official said Monday.
Observers predict ‘wide open’ process of picking next chief
State Supreme Court Chief Justice Brent Dickson surprised observers in June when he decided to step down after a brief tenure as the state’s top judge.
Multi-vehicle accident in parking lot
A woman was hospitalized with injuries after a multiple-vehicle accident late Monday morning in the Baesler’s Market parking lot on Poplar Street
Old National acquires Michigan bank
Evansville-based Old National Bancorp and Grand Rapids-based Founders Financial Corp. said Monday they have finalized an agreement under which Old National will acquire Founders through a stock and cash merger.
Ohio man falls to death at Cataract Falls rec area
Indiana conservation officers are investigating the death of an Ohio man that occurred at about 4:10 p.m. Sunday at Cataract Falls State Recreation Area in Owen County.
65,000 chickens die in rural Indiana fire
WARSAW, Ind. (AP) — Thousands of chickens have been killed in a fire on a northern Indiana farm.
One person hospitalized after parking lot pile-up
A woman was hospitalized with injuries after an accident late this morning in the Baesler’s Market parking lot.
Indiana teachers worry about revamped ISTEP test
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana teachers are heading back to classrooms starting this week and face the daunting task of preparing students for a standardized test that’s been retooled three times since 2009.
‘Test jury’ gauged in Indianapolis home blast case
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Prosecutors and attorneys for one of the suspects in a deadly Indianapolis house explosion have begun assessing whether they can find an impartial jury to hear the case.
Vigo County Jail Log: July 28, 2014
The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, based on jail records.
Old National strengthens position with Grand Rapids-based Founders Bank & Trust pending acquisition
Evansville-based Old National Bancorp and Grand Rapids-based Founders Financial Corp. jointly announced today the execution of a definitive agreement under which Old National will acquire Founders through a stock and cash merger.
Conservation officers investigate death at Cataract Falls
Indiana Conservation officers are investigating the death of an Ohio man that occurred at about 4:10 p.m. Sunday, July 27, at Cataract Falls State Recreation Area in Owen County.
Postcards from the war front
A native of France, Marie Decleir saw humanity at its worst as she experienced the death and destruction caused by World War I, which began 100 years ago today.
Watching Gordon make history
As race car drivers competed on the track on Sunday in Indianapolis, racing fans in Terre Haute gathered around television screens and watched history unfold during the “Crown Royal Presents, The John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard.”
STATE OF THE STATEHOUSE: Inept amid partisan fury
Retired Congressman Lee Hamilton has warned of the perils of political ideology, calling the body where he spent 34 years “noxiously partisan.” Now, he worries the divide is downright dangerous.
Restaurant Inspections: July 28, 2014
Travel the interstate at your own risk.
Report: City‘s general fund to remain in red
The city’s general fund balance on June 30 remained deep in the red, even after Terre Haute received its twice-yearly property tax check from the state.
Interns, getting foot in the door, bring diversity to workplace
Shanya Tompkins interviewed with Coldwell Banker-Troy Helman Realtors, anticipating an eight-week, part-time summer internship.
Everybody get up and dance now
National Dance Day promotes dancing as part of a healthy, active lifestyle.
- More Local & Bistate Headlines
- Illinois to ask voters about taxing millionaires