PITTSBURGH — There are new efforts to prevent sexually violent predators from moving in near schools in Pennsylvania.
We wanted to know how big a problem this is in our area.
So 11 Investigates combed through the data, mapped out the addresses and started knocking on doors.
Katie Wymard couldn’t believe it when a sexually violent predator moved in next door to Central Elementary in Hampton.
“I have three children at this elementary school and I really, really want to keep them safe but I want to keep other kids safe, too,” Wymard said.
Channel 11 first told you about the uproar it caused in that community.
“There are no laws on the books right now in Pennsylvania that prohibit anyone on Megan’s Law, including sexually violent predators, to live a certain distance from the school or daycare. And I want to change that,” said Wymard.
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But we found it’s happening across our area, with sex offenders moving in near all kinds of schools.
After seeing Channel 11′s original reporting in Hampton, two state representatives, Rob Mercuri, and Arvind Venkat, decided something must be done.
“Every day that goes by that we have this loophole in Megan’s Law where sexually violent predators can live right next door to schools our kids are at risk,” said Mercuri.
The two representatives introduced bills that would prohibit sexually violent predators from living within 2,500 feet of any school or daycare. And if it becomes law, offenders within that zone would have to move within six months.
“We feel like this is a reasonable restriction on a group of individuals who have shown the likelihood to offend again,” Mercuri explained.
11 Investigates wanted to see how big of an issue this is in our area, so we mapped out all the schools in Allegheny County, then we gathered all the information about offenders the state deems “sexually violent predators.” There are 99 of them in Allegheny County. Several live within just a couple hundred feet of schools.
Then we took a closer look and knocked on doors using the addresses we found to try to question predators.
One lives near Sto-Rox Junior-Senior High School. He was convicted of involuntary deviant sexual intercourse.
Another was convicted of indecent assault and lives down the street from Pittsburgh’s Fulton Elementary School.
And just 1,000 feet from Pittsburgh Classical Academy and Greenway Middle School, we found a man who was convicted of aggravated indecent assault with a minor.
We asked him about the proposed bills, and if one passes.
“I have my trepidations on having to move. I understand the point but in some cases, it could be really detrimental,” he said.
Even if there is a change in the law, some worry it might not be enough.
That’s because there are other sex offenders on Megan’s List who aren’t considered sexually violent predators but might be a risk.
In fact, there are more than 1,700 registered sex offenders across Allegheny County and many with sex abuse convictions live near schools.
We found one man who lives right across the street from Turner Intermediate School in Wilkinsburg. He’s on the sex offender’s list for having involuntary deviant sex with a child.
Another who didn’t answer the door was convicted of sexual abuse of children and lives less than 2,500 feet from two Pittsburgh elementary schools, Arsenal and Woolslair.
We asked Representative Mercuri if the proposed bills should tie in other offenders, too.
“I think it’s certainly possible and I think we should consider that alternative,” Mercuri said.
Currently, when sex offenders move into a new neighborhood, the community has protocols depending on the level of offense and police get involved.
“Troopers will actually go door to door with flyers notating the information that will be affecting your community,” explained Trooper Rocco Gagliardi.
Back in Hampton, Wymard started a petition that is now circulating across Pennsylvania.
She says she won’t stop fighting to protect kids and keep communities safe.
“The more signatures we get and the more noise we make as communities, the more likely the bill is going to pass and it’s going to affect our entire state,” Wymard said.
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