By Janine Reyes
CORPUS CHRISTI - The city of Portland has come up with a way to address concerns about convicted sex offenders living in their city. Assistant City Manager Randy Wright tells us Its an ordinance that is in effect in about 200 Texas cities.
While more than 800 sex offenders live in Corpus Christi, Portland has just two.
Since Portland is much smaller than Corpus Christi, we wanted a closer look at these numbers.
Here's what we found, Portland has a population of more than 15,000 people, with just two registered sex offenders, only one actually lives in city limits.
By comparison, the 78416 zip code in Corpus Christi has a population of more than 16,000, so its fairly comparable in size, but, there are 57 registered sex offenders living there.
If we look at an even smaller area of the city, 78408 in Corpus Christi has a population of almost 11,000, with 67 registered sex offenders.
"I think what we say is that our interest is in families, our interest is in the safety of our citizens," Assistant City Manager Rand Wright explained of the ordinance when we asked if they were removing the welcome mat for sex offenders.
Five years ago, the city council decided to get tough on registered sex offenders by passing the ordinance that restricts sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of schools, day cares and other sex offenders.
A map of the city shows just how limited living options are for sex offenders.
When the law first went into effect, they could not force current sex offenders to leave, but over time that's exactly what happened.
Wright says when council passed the law, more than 5 offenders lived in Portland.
Now, only two come up on the state website when you type in the 78374 zip code. "Actually, we have one that lives inside the city limits now," Wright explained.
Residents convicted of a sex crime while living there have to follow the same strict guidelines. Wright says their ordinance recently forced one man out of town.
"They would have to move outside of the exclusionary area and that happened," Wright said describing a recent situation. That man used to live in a subdivision off Broadway, but once he was convicted of a sex crime and had to register as a sex offender, police measured the distance from his house to this park and because he was within a 1,000 feet, he had to go.
- So the law is an ex post facto (unconstitutional) law!
But, in Corpus Christi, we took Lantana street for example, there's a sex offender who lives in a house just 400 feet away from an elementary school, 200 feet away from another registered sex offender, and 500 feet from another sex offender. In that neighborhood alone, there are 4 registered sex offenders. They live not only hundreds of feet from each other, but also by Gibson Elementary School.
That's where we found Letty Rodriguez picking up her kids. She says she'd like to see a similar ordinance passed in Corpus Christi. "Especially now without the crossing guards or anything like that, yeah, that's definitely something every neighborhood should have," Rodriguez told us.
But city leaders in Corpus Christi don't necessarily agree with Rodriguez.
Even if Corpus Chisti leaders were to pass that ordinance today, current sex offenders would not need to move. They would be grandfathered in. If they relocated, then they would have to follow the ordinance guidelines.
Part two of our Sex Offender Ordinance Investigation will highlight responses from Mayor Nelda Martinez and the Chief of Police on this ordinance. Both say Corpus Christi does not need to follow Portland's lead.