Chief wants sex offenders kept out of shelter Monday, January 9, 2006
David McLaughlin 508-626-4338 Metrowest Daily News
Framingham Police Chief Steven Carl called for the shelter downtown to ban sex offenders like other shelters have done recently, saying they add to people's fears and pose a danger to those staying there.

Carl's remarks followed the release of a report this week on how the most dangerous sex offenders in town ended up here, based on police interviews with them.  Carl said he is concerned the shelter may be drawing some to Framingham.

"It adds to the problem.  It adds to the perception and fear that Framingham is an unsafe community," he said.

Framingham had 22 Level 3 sex offenders, or those most likely to re-offend, as of Friday, several of whom are homeless and give their address as the Irving Street shelter.  There were 86 Level 2 offenders.

Social service agency SMOC, which runs the emergency shelter, says it will not institute a ban like shelters in Waltham and on Cape Cod have done in recent months.  For clients with no ties to the Framingham area, the agency says it works to find other places for them to stay.

Planning Director Gerard Desilets insisted the shelter is not attracting an unusual number of sex offenders.  He said there were no Level 3 offenders staying there as of Friday, despite what police records say.  In the past year, there have been seven, he said.

Desilets blamed the state for failing to develop appropriate housing for them.

"I would say we need to work with the police and with state agencies to find alternative housing for these folks.  Until that time, if someone presents themselves on a cold winter night, basic human decency says we can't put that person on the street," he said.

About three months ago, the Waltham-based Middlesex Human Service Agency banned Level 3 offenders from its shelter.  Director Peter Donovan said he had become "uneasy" about accepting them with an elementary school and a middle school nearby.

And in August, the Housing Assistance Corp. on Cape Cod banned all "known sex offenders" from its emergency adult shelter in Hyannis, said spokeswoman Virginia Ryan.

Carl said he supports banning Level 2's and 3's from the Framingham shelter, arguing they could potentially harm other guests.

"People don't want sex offenders in their neighborhood," he said.  "I'm sure these people (at the shelter) don't want sex offenders right next to them."

Joe Finn, executive director of the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance, said it is not unheard of for shelters to approve such bans, a decision the organization does not take a position on.  He called for the state to develop a comprehensive plan for dealing with the most dangerous offenders as they get out of prison.

"If the only plan is just to discharge these people to a shelter, it's not an appropriate plan.  Something has to be done at the state level to address this issue," said Finn, who rejected the notion that shelters attract sex offenders.

Some also argue that letting sex offenders into a shelter allows police to better monitor them than if they were out on the street.  In fact, Waltham Police Detective Jim Auld said he would direct homeless Level 3 sex offenders to the city's shelter so he knew where they were.

Auld described his job as a "constant battle to keep track of these guys."

"This is a potential disaster if you don't know where these people are," he said.

Sex offenders are required to register with their local police departments.  Those who register as homeless, which is allowed under the law, must register every three months, unlike the annual requirement for offenders who are not homeless.

While SMOC said no Level 3 sex offenders were staying at the shelter, Lt. Steven Wuorio said there were three based on the information they provide police, one of whom registered this week.  He said it is a violation for someone to use the shelter address if they are not staying there.

"My records indicate that there are three Level'3’s still living there.  If they're not living there, the shelter should let me know, and I'll violate them for not filing a change of address," he said.

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