Residents seek action against sex offender "cluster"

Long Beach officials and the state parole board are weighing neighbors' concerns against the rights of the dozen parolees.
By Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times

How many high-risk registered sex offenders should be allowed to live in the same apartment building?

At 1149 E. 1st St. in Long Beach, where at the same time as many as 19 rapists and child molesters on parole have resided in an apartment building near two licensed day-care centers, the question, and its elusive answer, have become an emotionally charged issue.

A female neighbor carries a baseball bat at night for protection. Many families have added extra deadbolts to their doors. At least one couple has moved out of the downtown neighborhood of palm-shaded apartments and condominiums less than two blocks from the beach. Children no longer play outside without parental supervision.

"My girlfriend is freaked out, so we're looking to move," said Dana Reichers, 30, whose apartment building is only a few blocks from the 12-unit complex that locals have labeled "the predator house."

Joe Quiniro, 49, said his wife wants to move out of the condominium they bought 3 1/2 years ago for $200,000.

"I don't want to go; I love this place," he said. "But we don't want to live like prisoners in our own home."

With angry residents demanding action, the Long Beach city attorney's office and the parole board of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation are weighing the rights of the parolees against residents' concerns. Meanwhile, the Long Beach City Council has unanimously agreed to draft an ordinance that would ban high-risk registered sex offenders from being allowed to live within 2,000 feet of a day-care center.

On Tuesday the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, at the urging of Supervisor Mike Antonovich, directed the county counsel to determine if state law allows local governments to restrict the housing of sex offenders in neighborhoods. Under state law, a convicted sex offender released on parole since 2006 may not live within 2,000 feet of parks or primary or secondary schools.

"The parole department needs to be more thoughtful of the community and the parolees in their care," said Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal, whose 2nd District includes the apartment building. "Instead, they placed these men in what has become a circus cage. For us, the parole department is public enemy No. 1."

"How arrogant can authorities be to walk into a neighborhood and do this without once uttering a word?" she added. "They need to know I hold them and a greedy landlord responsible."

State parole board spokesman Gordon Hinkle said Lowenthal's criticism was "not fair." He added authorities were doing "the best they can."

"Is it really safer to have these homeless guys spread out one or two to a block, or have 10 or 12 in one place where we can keep an eye on them?" he asked.

State law bars more than six registered sex offenders on parole from living together in a residential care facility, unless they are legally related by blood, marriage or adoption. Only one sex offender is allowed to live in a single-family dwelling. The law, however, does not address the number of sex offenders allowed to live in an apartment building, authorities said.

The building's owner, Mile Milivojevic, who runs a business called Light Green Money, receives about $1,500 a month from the state corrections department for each registered sex offender housed in the complex -- roughly $500 more than going rental rates on the block.

Milivojevic declined to comment on the issue, except to say, "I don't feel good about everything that's happening. I don't like what's going on."

But neighbor Jerry Ryan, 51, who shares an apartment with a teenage son and daughter, angrily recalled a recent telephone conversation he had with Milivojevic.

"I said to him, 'Are you crazy? You're scaring people around here,' " Ryan said. "He just laughed and said, 'I have to educate people in the neighborhood about discrimination.' "

The problem surfaced in January when ownership of the building changed hands and tenants began noticing increasing numbers of what they described as scruffy-looking men on the premises. The new owner told renters, including families with children, that the men were "maintenance workers," according to Deputy City Atty. Crystal Meyers.

By the end of the month the building's previous tenants had been replaced by 19 registered sex offenders, some living three and four to a unit.

Last week, the number had dropped to 12, according to postings on the Megan's Law website, which provides detailed information on registered sex offenders.

One of the current tenants would only say before closing a door, "We've been instructed not to talk to the press."

Neighbors cited encounters they call worrisome. One of the sex offenders recently offered to help a 16-year-old boy empty a trash can into a Dumpster in a back alley. Women have complained that some of the men have tried to strike up conversations with them. Others don't like that the parolees often hang out in the alley.

As a precaution, Marge Landress, who owns an adjacent apartment building, last Wednesday put up four "No Trespassing" signs on a wall facing the building in question.

"Something has to be done. They should never have put so many sex offenders in one building," Landress said. She'd like to sell but asked, "Who'd buy it?"

A similar controversy erupted recently in the Meadows community of unincorporated Altadena, where neighbors discovered six registered sex offenders on parole living in a residential care facility.

On Thursday, Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La CaƱada Flintridge) announced that parole authorities, yielding to pressure to do so, planned to relocate those offenders next week. That could not happen soon enough for Meadows residents.

"I hate it. I want them out. I'm afraid to go out and get the mail. They've ruined our neighborhood," said Jane Szabo, 41. "As soon as we found out about this, seven of us printed brochures and color photographs of the gentlemen and then went door to door in the rain to alert neighbors."

In another case, parole agents placed as many as 47 sex offenders on parole in the same apartment building in the 1900 block of North Marianna Avenue in East Los Angeles, less than 2,000 feet from a high school on the Cal State Los Angeles campus, corrections authorities acknowledged Tuesday.

"As soon as we became aware that there was a high school nearby, district administrators were instructed to relocate the parolees," Hinkle said. "The issue at Cal State L.A. was discovered on Jan. 10 and all were relocated by Jan. 14."

In Long Beach, the controversy has been something of a spectacle. Recently, the "John and Ken Show" radio program was broadcast from the street in front of the building, which has been a magnet for the curious.

"In a few months, things will be back to the way they were," said John Sparling, 45, a flight attendant who lives just a few doors down from the building.
[Ed: Let's see: the "public" doesn't want sex offenders to live:
-near schools and parks
-near other homes
-near a day care
-near a school bus stop
-with other sex offenders
-alone, in a car parked down the street

Oh! I get it! the
"public" just doesn't want sex offenders to LIVE! And, the scary part is, the "public" really believes that they have every right to stop the sex offenders from LIVING!

[a reader comments:
My favorite part of the article:

"Neighbors cited encounters they call worrisome. One of the sex offenders recently offered to help a 16-year-old boy empty a trash can into a Dumpster in a back alley. Women have complained that some of the men have tried to strike up conversations with them."

Help take out the trash? Try to start conversations? What monsters! How dare they pretend to be human.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

They've just passed 18 sex offender ordinances. The most restrictive ordinance outlaws all sex offenders from living in over 96% of the city, in addition, they cannot visit the beach, any parks, and any McDonald's with a playset or Chuck E Cheese.

Wikipedia (Long Beach, California)