Laws don't prevent sex offenders from living near school bus stops

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by Nick Ochsner, 13News

WVEC.com

Posted on February 3, 2014 at 5:42 PM

Updated Monday, Feb 3 at 7:41 PM

There are more than 2,600 registered sex offenders living in Hampton Roads, including 651 in Norfolk, 387 in Newport News and 498 in Virginia Beach. A 13News Now investigation has found hundreds of them living 500 feet or less from school bus stops in Hampton Roads.

Our investigation began after a string of children reported being approached at bus stops and in other public places One incident included Ruben Torres, a registered sex offender from Massachusetts, who allegedly tried to grab a 6-year-old boy at a flea market in Chesapeake.

Back at the bus stops, where thousands of children gather each morning in Hampton Roads, one mother grew concerned after learning a registered sex offender who had been convicted of taking indecent liberties with children in 2006 lived right across the street from her son's stop.

Jennifer St. Martin said she felt uneasy as soon as she saw his address pop up in her search. "I didn't feel comfortable standing there so I didn't think it was safe for kids to," St. Martin said.

But administrators with Virginia Beach Public Schools were less concerned when St. Martin called to have her son's bus stop moved. St. Martin was allowed to take her son to another stop, but none of the other children were allowed to move unless their parents specifically asked for them to be.

David Pace, director of transportation for Virginia Beach Public Schools, said moving a bus stop down the street won't help much in protecting students from sex offenders of any kind. If that bus stop is in the neighborhood close to that sexual offender that child lives close to the sexual offender no matter if the bus stop is there or not," Pace said. "We look at this as a partnership with the parent. The safety of that child is the responsibility of the parent, the school bus driver, the school personnel and our transportation staff."

An analysis of registered sex offenders in Virginia Beach has found a lot more sex offenders living near bus stops than you might think. An address search of 100 registered sex offenders in the city found more than 2/3rds living a tenth of a mile or less from school bus stops, including 6convicted offenders living directly across the street.

Of those six, one offender was convicted of raping a minor in Delaware in 2008 and another had been convicted multiple times for sodomy of a minor in California and for failing to register as a sex offender in Virginia.

Pace, the director of transportation, said there are too many sex offenders living in his city to make bus routes around them. "If you were to plot all of them on a map in the City of Virginia Beach and tried to avoid every sex offender's home or address we'd probably have to make door to door school bus stops," Pace said.

Pace also pointed out there are no laws preventing sex offenders from living near school bus stops. That's something Jennifer St. Martin would like to see changed. "If the sex offender isn't allowed to go to them why are they allowing kids to go to the sex offenders?" St. Martin asked.

 

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