Mother worried about number of registered sex offenders near school

Aug. 22, 2011 at 3:22 a.m.

Sonya Luna

Sonya Luna

With school starting on Monday, Victoria resident Sonya Luna is concerned about her children's safety as they attend a new school.

Luna is concerned that 98 registered sex offenders live within a three-mile radius of Torres Elementary School, where her children will begin attending classes.

As of this month, 189 registered sex offenders live in Victoria County, according to the Public Sex Offenders Registry from the Department of Public Safety.

Among the offenders in that area, several are high-risk registered sex offenders, including a man convicted of aggravated sexual assault against a 3-year-old child, reside less than .19 of a mile from the school, she said.

Fueling her concerns is that her three children are autistic and are at risk of fleeing the school or being too trusting of strangers. She is also concerned the offenders pose a threat to all children whose parents are unaware of the danger.

"A quarter of a mile is not that far for a child to run," Luna said. "It could be someone else's child. A child can disappear within seconds."

In addition to the registered sex offenders, Luna said, a night club known for drugs and gang activity is less than a mile from the school.

"I did research when buying a house so I could be sure my children were in a safe area," Luna said. "Why would I send my children into that area?"

Luna requested that her children be allowed to attend a different campus, which she believes would be more safe for her children.

Luna said she believes children who are handicapped in their ability to protect themselves should be given higher consideration for transfers to schools in safer neighborhoods.

The Victoria school district has a standard procedure for reviewing transfers requests, said director of communications Diane Boyett.

She said priority for transfers goes to neighborhood residents. In the situation where there are multiple people requesting transfers, the school weighs compelling reasons for transfers.

Priority for attending schools is given to children who are in the neighborhood of the school as determined by the school's districting system.

While the safety of the neighborhood surrounding each school is not guaranteed, the school district does ensure the safety of each of its campuses.

"The students in the school are in a safe environment regardless of the neighborhood surrounding that school," Boyett said. "The school takes safety of children at school very seriously."

Boyett said Torres and Schorlemmer elementary campuses, the district's two newest elementary schools, were specifically designed with security in mind. Campus visitors are required to go through the front doors past a receptionist and buzzed into areas where students will be.

While Boyett recognizes the potential danger posed by registered sex offenders, she said parents should keep in mind that not all sex offenders have been caught.

"The matter of a registered sex offender is by all means a matter of concern," Boyett said. She said the offenders who have been caught know they are being watched.

"No one should ever discount those sex offenders who haven't been caught. They are not registered because they haven't been caught."

Senior Patrol Officer William Whitfield with the Victoria Police Department's Crime Prevention Unit encourages parents to talk with their children about the danger strangers present.

Registered sex offenders may not live within 500 feet of a school, according to the DPS website.

Registered sex offenders are also listed on the DPS website with their picture, age, address, occupation information and basic details of their last offense.

The registry also lists the risk level assigned to each offender by the probation department.

"For moderate and high risk offenders, I would really recommend taking a route (to school) that doesn't go by their house," Whitfield said.

Whitfield said parents should remind their children not to go to houses or get in cars of people they don't know.

If children walk to school, Whitfield said it is important that they know to walk straight to school and back home.

"Stick to main roadways. Don't cut through alleys," Whitfield said. "Walk with your kids to school. Show them the safest route."



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