Park Predators: Sex offenders could be living close to where your children play

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– CBS4 is taking a closer look at sexual or violent offenders that could be living close to where your children go to play every day. On the heels of summer break, you might be surprised to find out just how close some offenders legally live to area parks.

There are 10,000 registered sex offenders in the state of Indiana, and 1,700 of them are in Marion County.

“We have the most sex offenders in the state,” said Captain Allan Shrum, with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, “Everybody thinks that a sex offender can’t live by a school, a park, a daycare, and that’s not true.”

Shrum is with the sex offender registry unit of the office, comprised of 14 staff members who check up on registered offenders, both with in-person checks and license plate scanning drive-bys.

“Every deputy in Marion County has sex offenders that they check,” Shrum said.

The addresses of those offenders are public and listed in a searchable database. Shrum said four types of offenders are cataloged – sex offenders, violent offenders, sexually violent predators, and offenders against children.

But it’s only sexually violent predators and offenders against children that are subject to the state’s 1,000-foot rule, meaning they must live 1,000 feet away from a school, daycare or public park.

That doesn’t mean they can’t live close by.

“Look to see where your kids are playing,” Shrum said, “Not every sex offender can’t be around a park.”

CBS4 combed through a list of Indianapolis parks and put the addresses in the database.

At the top of our list, Beville Park on Beville Avenue, with 10 offenders living within a quarter mile.

Indianaola Park on Washington Street followed, with seven offenders living within a quarter mile.

That figure was surprising to young mother Anna Grignon, who frequents Indianaola Park with her daughter.

“If I’d heard that off hand, I wouldn’t come here, but having been here every week, it doesn’t really bother me at all,” said Grignon.

Registered offenders aren’t confined to Indianapolis city limits. They live in the suburbs, too. In a quick search of the database, CBS4 found six registered offenders living within two miles of Founders Park on Hazel Dell Parkway in Carmel.

“There’s a high probability that there’s a sex offender living in the general vicinity of most neighborhoods here in Hamilton County,” said Mark Bowen, Hamilton County Sheriff.

Bowen said his department monitors 156 sex offenders through their own compliance checks. Their number is noticeably lower than Marion County, but still high enough, Bowen said, to remind parents to search the registry and try to talk to their kids about safety, even though offenders may be living nearby, legally.

Parents can even sign up to track certain offenders.

Perhaps the peace of mind leading into the summer months may be worth it.

“School will be out soon. Kids will be out playing in their yards, playing in the neighborhoods, going back and forth between friends’ homes, and things of that nature. So, it’s very important that parents do have these conversations with their children,” Bowen said.

Law enforcement always gets the message out about ‘stranger danger,’ and it’s a crucial message, but Bowen said sometimes it can be misleading.

In fact, statistics from the National Center for Victims of Crime show a majority of children who are sexually abused are abused by someone in their social circle.

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