Law would bar high-risk sex offenders from living in motels

EAST PROVIDENCE, RI (WPRI) — A Rhode Island lawmaker is co-sponsoring a bill that would limit how long level III sex offenders can live in hotels and motels.

The issue was revealed during a Target 12 investigation last September that showed half a dozen sex offenders appeared to be living permanently in three different motels.

Rep. Katherine S. Kazarian, D-East Providence, introduced legislation that would authorize an innkeeper to remove a high-risk sex offender who attempts to live in a hotel for more than 30 consecutive days.

“These offenders have constitutional rights too. But we thought 30 days would be a good amount of time,” Kazarian said. “They would be able to find other housing. We don’t want them to be permanent residents. We want it to be a temporary thing.”

Karzarian’s interest was prompted by constituents who lived near a Rumford motel where two sex offenders were living last year. A level III offender has since been remanded back to the Adult Correctional Institute on a probation violation.

A level II offender who lived in the same East Providence motel has since moved.

Kazarian was concerned about other motel guests not knowing that sex offenders were living near them, and families who lived near the motel were worried about that and their children.

“A lot of young families were really scared,” Kazarian said. “Safety is their main concern.”

A recent review of the registry showed there are now three sex offenders living in two motels. Two level II offenders are living in Westerly while level III offender Roger Greene is living in North Kingstown. Both were also living in the same locations in the fall.

Parole Board Chair Laura Pisaturo was unavailable for comment on the proposed bill.

In response to the Target 12 investigation in September, she said the law restricts sex offenders from living within 300 feet of schools and working in certain businesses frequented by children. But the job of notifying the public where they live is up to law enforcement.

“The law does not put this responsibility [of notifying the public about sex offenders] on private citizens,” Pisaturo said. “So, motel or other homeowners are not responsible.”

But Carolyn Medeiros, Executive Director of Alliance for Safe Communities, called that a hole in the state’s notification law.

“No one who’s stopping for a night or two is going to check the website,” she said. “They would have to know we have a registry and be looking to narrow down the address of exactly where [their motel is].”

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau