Whitehills Residents Concerned About Sex Offender Housing Issue

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Thursday, October 17, 2019, 7:30 am
By: 
Alice Dreger

Photo by Raymond Holt of a Michigan State Police officer working on the sex offender registry.

Residents of East Lansing’s Whitehills neighborhood tell ELi that when the emergency alert went out on Sunday night saying that a 61-year-old cognitively-impaired man who “walked away from an adult care home near Whitehills” was missing, they were worried about his well-being. The alert indicated that the man was not dressed warmly, and the night was cold.

But the neighborly concern for the man soon turned to concern about children in the neighborhood when residents discovered that he is a registered sex offender who committed sexual offense against a child under the age of 13 in the 1980s according to public records.

Of greatest concern to the residents who spoke to ELi is that the company that runs the adult care home doesn’t seem to be answering questions of how they are monitoring this man to prevent a situation where he (or other brain-injured residents like him) might wander away and harm another child.

Looking into the situation, neighbors discovered that the address where the man was living was not the address listed for him in the Michigan sex offender registry. That means there was no way they could know where he was living.

According to Michigan law, a registered sex offender is “noncompliant” if he or she fails to keep law enforcement agencies apprised of his or her residential address, employment status, internet screen names and/or email addresses. (There are additional requirements.)

The point of requiring compliance is so that people can know where registered sex offenders reside. In the case of a cognitively-impaired adult, a guardian would be charged with assuring compliance.

The man in question was located Sunday night not long after he went missing. He lives at a home run by a private company called CBI Rehabilitation Services of East Lansing.

CBI Rehab’s website indicates they specialize “in providing behavioral services in residential, vocational and community supports to individuals with traumatic brain injury and cognitive impairments.”

Whitehills resident Brian Titus reached out to ELi with the neighbors’ alarm.

He says that when neighbors contacted CBI Rehab, Agency Director John Kattelus dismissed their concerns, writing, “I understand that the community integration of handicapped individuals is a difficult concept for some people to accept.”

Titus tells ELi this answer – making it sound like the neighbors are simply biased against people with disabilities – fails “to address the real and most substantial concerns that: (1) there is an offender (multiple counts against a minor) lodged in the midst of a neighborhood full of children and walking distance to our elementary school; (2) that the offender’s status was non-compliant thereby denying the neighbors of the right to know of the possible danger present, including when he wandered off on foot in our neighborhood; and (3) that this facility’s measures to monitor and contain him failed.”

Says Titus, “As neighbors, we are justifiably concerned that this could happen again.”

Contacted for comment, East Lansing Deputy Police Chief Steve Gonzalez told ELi, “As it stands currently we are looking into his compliance status.”

According to Gonzalez, ELPD “maintains a Police Sergeant assigned a collateral duty to ensure all Registered Sex Offenders in the city maintain a compliant status. If found out of compliance, the Sergeant conducts an investigation and refers the findings to the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office for review and issuance of the appropriate charges.”

If a problem arises, Gonzalez noted, “An officer can be sent out to the neighborhood to look into the behavior reported and take the appropriate action based on the circumstances.”

But the neighbors aren’t interested in waiting for illegal activity before they get help from the authorities with their concern that this cognitively-impaired man with a history of sexual assault might wander away unsupervised again.

Whitehills resident John Bails shared with ELi his “general disbelief that a company could run a commercial facility out of a single-family home” like this, particularly given that it is apparently “permitted to house felons convicted of sexually assaulting children, especially since it is located near an elementary school in a neighborhood full of children.”

Said Bails, “What’s more, the facility clearly doesn’t have the necessary protocols to protect its residents if it had to alert the police that it lost track of one.”

According to Bails, zoning and other laws should provide “limitations and protections for both residents of the facility and neighbors, particularly in the case at hand.”

We asked CBI Rehab what steps they take with residents in their facilities who have a history of sex-offending in terms of protecting nearby residents and facility visitors from potential harm.

CBI Rehab’s management responded yesterday in writing by saying they “cannot discuss individual client services” due to confidentiality laws and added that “All residents in our facilities are supervised as required by the individual’s treatment plan and State of Michigan licensing regulations.”

They did not explain what steps they take in the specific circumstance when a resident is a registered sex offender.

 

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