Thursday, November 17, 2011

PA - Pine residents seek stricter sex offender law

Original Article


By Sandy Trozzo

After about 20 children attended a Halloween party at a playground in Treesdale while a registered sex offender lived across the street, some residents asked Pine supervisors to enact a law prohibiting registered sex offenders from living near where children play.

[name withheld] lived in the garage of his sister's vacant home on South Lake Drive in Treesdale from Oct. 24 until he was returned to jail Nov. 3. Although township police knew he was there, residents did not.

"We're certainly concerned that this individual was living in our neighborhood in a vacant home and very close to a public park," resident Carl Staiger said.

Residents of South Lake Drive made their request to Pine supervisors on Nov. 7. Supervisors asked solicitor Gary Gushard to draft an ordinance for consideration at the Dec. 5 meeting that would prohibit sex offenders from living within 500 to 750 feet of a school, park or other place where children play.

That is narrower than the Allegheny County ordinance that was struck down by the state Supreme Court in May, Mr. Gushard said.

The county ordinance had prohibited a registered sex offender from living within 2,500 feet -- or a half-mile -- of a school, park, recreational center or community center. The Supreme Court thought that there would be "very few places throughout the county where there could be a residence," Mr. Gushard said.

State law, however, prohibits offenders from living within two blocks of a school or other child-related place, so Mr. [name withheld] was probably in violation by living in the garage of his sister's vacant home, he added.

Mr. [name withheld], 54, was convicted in June of indecent assault against a minor, defined as someone under 13 years old, according to the state's Megan's Law website. The website lists him as a "lifetime offender," but no other details are given.

Pine Police Chief Robert Amman said he was not permitted to notify residents. He said he did send extra police patrols to the neighborhood, but none of the patrols found Mr. [name withheld] in the house. He was returned to jail because he was not living in a halfway house as required by his parole, Chief Amman said.

Greg Bosiljevac, who lives across the street from the house, said Mr. [name withheld] told him that he was "down on his luck" and had "made some bad choices in his life."

That made him suspicious, he said, and another neighbor found Mr. [name withheld] on the Megan's Law website.

"I didn't sleep for days," said Rebecca Staiger. "I have a 6-year-old who rides his scooter up and down the sidewalk. This individual was two doors down from my house."

In addition to being near the playground, the house sits between bus stops for elementary and high school students, she added.

"It's unsettling," she said. "It's unbelievable that this is happening in our community."