RICHMOND – State officials’ proposal to temporarily house registered sex offenders at a mobile home park in Richmond has sparked a series of meetings around Indiana with local police agencies about the sensitive issue.
Wayne County Sheriff Jeff Cappa said Tuesday that the Indiana Department of Correction’s plan to place a mobile home at the Beechwood Mobile Home Park in Richmond to house registered sex offenders has been put on hold while those meetings play out in the coming months.
He said the Indiana Sheriff’s Association will be hosting a series of meetings around the state with DOC Commissioner Bruce Lemmon about the agency’s larger plan to house registered sex offenders in communities.
In Allen County, Detective Jeff Shimkus, part of the Sex Offender and Registration Notification team for the Allen County Sheriff’s Department, said Wednesday he hadn’t heard about the plan.
The Wayne County sheriff plans to attend a meeting April 22 in Portland to share his thoughts about the DOC plan. He said the hope is that the DOC staff and local law enforcement officials can discuss alternatives to the DOC program.
“This will give us a chance to work together and come up with some answers, instead of just having it dropped on us like it was,” Cappa told the Palladium-Item. “I think in the end, we will form a better professional partnership and work together to handle this situation.”
DOC spokesman Doug Garrison said the proposal to place a mobile home for registered sex offenders on Richmond’s northwest side sparked those meetings. He said the sheriff’s association is inviting sheriffs and other local law enforcement agencies to the meetings with Lemmon in six regions around the state.
“We’ll work together to try to find housing solutions, that’s what this is about,” Garrison said Wednesday. “We’re trying to reach the broadest segment of law enforcement that we can.”
Last month, 17 state, area and local officials met in Richmond to discuss the DOC’s proposal for Richmond. The plan was for sex offenders who completed their jail terms to be placed at a mobile home in the park rent-free for two weeks while they prepare to resettle in the community.
Delaware County Chief Deputy Sheriff Jason Walker also attended that meeting to talk about a similar trial program started in Delaware County, which was suspended before plans were announced to bring the program to Richmond.
In Allen County, certain areas have attracted high numbers of sex offenders such as Dupont Triangle, formerly Northway Mobile Home Park, along Tonkel Road in northeast Allen County.
Currently, 16 registered sex offenders live in the park. In December 2011, when 9-year-old Aliahna Lemmon disappeared and was found murdered and dismembered inside a mobile home at the park, there were 14 registered sex offenders.
While the state’s proposal is only to temporarily house sex offenders while they make the transition back into communities, the problem that has created high concentrations of sex offenders in places such as Dupont Triangle remains.
Shimkus has long advocated that the state lift a rule that bans sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school, park or child care center.
“If they could live wherever they wanted, we might have one or two (sex offenders per mobile home park) instead of parks entirely of sex offenders,” Shimkus said. “That would be fine if it were just sex offenders, but families move,” and parents have to worry about the people around their children.
It was unknown Wednesday whether the state plans to bring the program to Allen County or northeast Indiana or whether there is a meeting slated for this area.
Joyce McCartney of The Journal Gazette contributed to this story.