• Target 11 investigates registered sex offenders living near schools


    PITTSBURGH - Registered sex offenders are living near schools, bus stops and day cares. They're right in your community, and it's all legal. But Target 11 has discovered that some state lawmakers are taking action, trying to do something to change it. They're debating a new bill restricting where sex offenders can live.

    Target 11 Investigator Rick Earle has been talking to parents and registered sex offenders, and he also crunched the numbers to see how many are actually living near elementary schools.

    Earle found a registered sex offender living less than 1,000 feet from a local elementary school, and he agreed to talk to Target 11 as long as we didn't reveal his identity.

    "I've never in my life abused a child verbally let alone physically or sexually," said the registered sex offender, who despite his conviction maintains his innocence.

    He told Earle that he agreed to plead guilty to one count of child pornography instead of going to trial and facing the possibility of jail time.

    He claims he had no idea that several images were on his computer when he took it in for repairs.

    "Unfortunately for myself, having a computer crime had nothing to do with being a pedophile but I'm on the list," he told Earle

    Under the proposed legislation, any registered sex offender convicted of a crime involving a minor would be banned from living within 1,000 feet of a school, day care or park, and 500 feet from a school bus stop.

    Even the registered sex offender we spoke supports the legislation, but he said that sex offenders need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

    "I think it's a good idea. I just think each individual case should be taken into consideration. Not every person that's on Megan's Law is a pedophile," said

    Target 11 used new technology on the Pennsylvania State Police Megan's Law website to track sex offenders living near schools.

    We typed in the addresses of 20 local elementary schools and found 74 sex offenders living within a half mile of the schools.

    Among the higher numbers, we found seven near Centennial Elementary School in McKeesport, eight near Thaddeus Stevens Elementary School in New Castle and 10 near Hutchinson Elementary in Greensburg.

    Some parents Earle spoke with told him they thought it was already against the law.

    They were surprised to find out there is no law regulating where sex offenders may live. The courts have the ability to restrict where they live.

    "I don't like that. I do not like that at all," said one parent picking up children outside Hutchinson on one recent afternoon.

    "Oh great. Well, I'm glad I pick my kids up and don't let them walk home," said another parent.

    Many parents told Earle they thought there was already a law regulating where sex offenders may live. The courts have the ability to restrict where they live.

    State Sen. Jay Costa of Forest Hills co-sponsored the legislation. He's optimistic that it will eventually become law.

    "I think it's a sensible piece of legislation," Costa said.

    But critics contend that it would force sex offenders to move to rural areas, away from treatment centers and support systems. A similar ban in Allegheny County was ruled unconstitutional after the courts said it conflicted with current state laws regarding rehabilitation and re-integration into society.

    Costa said this legislation is different than the Allegheny County ban because it only targets sex offenders who commit crimes against children. The Allegheny County ban targeted all registered sex offenders.

    "The bottom line is to protect kids from individuals who have been accused of sex assaults," said Costa.

    Target 11 also discovered that any new law would not affect any current sex offenders living near the schools. They would be grandfathered in.

    So where does the proposal stand? A special committee is examining the legislation and is expected to issue a recommendation in June.

    Target 11 will continue to track the progress and bring you the very latest developments.

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