North Texas Daily

Living restrictions push sex offenders to Denton

Living restrictions push sex offenders to Denton

May 31
17:44 2017

Nina Quatrino | Senior Staff Writer

A slew of recent ordinances have pushed some homeless sex offenders and registered sex offenders out of certain neighborhoods and into cities and counties with less restriction such as Denton.

With the City of Denton having three main Texas colleges and universities each within miles from one another, these ordinances have caused a number of sex offenders to take up residence around the campuses.

This means the chances of a college student having a next-door neighbor that is a registered sex offender is a real possibility.

“Because Denton is Denton, we feed them [homeless offenders] and find housing for them.” Denton Police Detective Scott E. Miller said. “There are some blackout areas [where they are not permitted], near high schools, elementary schools and some areas surrounding [UNT].”

But because most background searches do not pull up minor cases, many registered sex offenders move into apartment complexes without question. Some could even live in student housing units, not technically affiliated with surrounding college, or university polices.

“It’s in the state [Texas] law that we can’t tell them no, or where not to live,” Miller said.

According to the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 62.153, all registered sex offenders have the freedom to become employed, or be students at UNT, as long as they continue to report to UNT police seven days prior to attending or employment.

“It’s all up to the management” Miller said. “It’s not their fault if they didn’t know.”

Miller has been working with registered sex offenders for the past seven years, and believes there is a stigma, and dramatization about the amount of sex offenders alone in Denton county.

“As of today, there are 136 registered sex offenders in Denton county,” Miller said. “Out of the 136, three are female offenders…30 are homeless. Most look like average people. Some are older, some are younger – it’s not like they really stand out.”

Sex offenders in Denton are mainly charged with indecent exposure, failure to register as sex offenders and sexual conduct with a minor.

“Out of the seven years I’ve been working with offenders, I’ve had only one re-offend,” Miller said. “Most of these guys are just doing their time.”

Tania Wen, a UNT accounting BS/MS graduate, said she would like to know how this kind of information is classified, as there are instances of relationships between younger people where one of the children gets reported.

“I always heard Denton was sketch, so I’m not too surprised there,” Wen said.

Before becoming the overseer of sex offenders in Denton county, Miller used to be an undercover agent, posing as a minor to catch sex offenders. But when NBC’s Dateline picked up on the idea in 2004, local chatroom numbers started to drop, and predators became even harder to arrest by Denton PD.

“[Offenders] weren’t going to give up information easily,” Miller said. “You could bait them, but they wouldn’t go for it.”

Now, sex offenders and predators are documented every day. Miller said that the offenders know they are being watched, their records are public, and everyone knows where they are at all times.

Everything is public.

Despite the level of scrutiny and observation, some students are still scared and believe more should be done.

“Apartment complexes should look into better background checks, especially in a college town,” said Jorjia West, Texas Woman’s University fashion merchandising and marketing junior .

As for safety, Miller recommends to always know your surroundings.

“You have to protect yourself,” Miller said. Don’t walk anywhere at night alone, if you’re out at the bar and you don’t see your drink, even just for a second, don’t drink it. You are your own protection.”

Featured Image: A map showing sex offenders in the area around Denton.

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Nina Quatrino

Nina Quatrino

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