Where are Black sex offenders living?

Nearly half of the 3,982 registered sex offenders in Chicago are not only Black, they also live in minority communities, a revelation that has community residents worried about their safety. As of July 14, state records indicate that within the 60628 ZIP

Nearly half of the 3,982 registered sex offenders in Chicago are not only Black, they also live in minority communities, a revelation that has community residents worried about their safety.

As of July 14, state records indicate that within the 60628 ZIP code, which includes the Roseland community on the South Side, there are 217 registered sex offenders. The 60628 ZIP code has the highest number of registered sex offenders than any other Chicago ZIP code, according to the Illinois State Police.

Four other ZIP codes with a 100-plus registered sex offender count are: 60636 and 60619, both on the South Side, which includes the Chicago Lawn and Chatham communities, respectively, with 139 each; 60620 on the South Side, which includes the Foster Park community, with 134; 60609, also on the South Side and includes the Back of the Yards community, with 130; and 60608, which cover portions of the South and West Side and includes the Pilsen and Little Village communities, with 126.

ZIP codes 60629, 60612, 60644, and 60624 also have 100 or more registered sex offenders as residents.

In total, 1,841 registered sex offenders live in ZIP codes that include Black communities, according to a Defender analysis of state records.

And while 3,982 may seem like a lot, it is less than the 5,000 registered sex offenders Chicago had in 2005. In that same year, the 60628 ZIP code had 400 residents listed as sex offenders.

Many sex offenders residing in some Black communities did not grow up there. Law enforcement officials said they choose these areas because of inexpensive housing, more substance abuse centers and better access to public transportation.

“When sex offenders get out of prison, rarely do they go back to their original neighborhoods where they have committed crimes,” said Oscar Garrison, a retired Chicago police officer who now works as a security consultant to the state police. “They try to do the right thing and start off fresh in a new area where no one knows them.”

Garrison said that the Roseland community has affordable housing and many storefront churches that giveaway food baskets each week.

“They need somewhere to live and eat, so why not move somewhere that’s cheap to live and free food is readily available?” he said.

And while women are also part of the sex offender population, most offenders are men, said Luis Gutierrez, a spokesman for the Illinois State Police.

But not all convicted sex offenders register their address with law enforcement as required by law, or update their information if they move.

Garrison said that there could be more sex offenders living in Black communities.

“I have a 14 year-old daughter, and I do not want anything to happen to her. My wife and I were thinking about moving to get away from all the gangs, but now that I know sex offenders are breeding in my community, that may make us move quicker,” said Robert Townsend, 43, who lives in the Roseland community.

James and Monica Williams live in the Chatham community on the South Side with their 4-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter.

The thought of a sex offender in their neighborhood incenses James.

“I will kill me a (expletive) if they touch my kids,” James told the Defender. “I normally do not talk like that, but when I think of someone violating my babies I get this rage in me that makes me want to kill a person.”

The decrease in the number of sex offenders registered in some Black communities over the years is little consolation for many residents.

“It’s good to see the number falling, but 217 is still too high a number for me,” said Michael Johnson, 37, a Roseland resident and captain of the girls basketball team at Fenger high school, also located in Roseland.

“I have a little girl so maybe for me the concern is a little greater because I have a child more at risk. Still, as a community we must come together to protect ‘our’ children from harmful elements such as sex offenders.”

According to state law, a person charged with a sexual offense identified in Illinois Compiled Statutes 730 ILCS 150/2(B) is listed as a sex offender when the charge results in a conviction or a finding of not guilty by reason of insanity.

But not all sex offenders are predatory. Some offenders engaged in consensual, albeit illegal, sexual activity.

If an 18-year-old has sex with a 16-year-old, the 18-year-old could be charged with and convicted of a sexual offense. The 18-year-old would then have to register as a sex offender.

“Not all registered sex offenders are rapists or child molesters,” Gutierrez said. “And it does not matter if the people involved are of the same sex.”

Other examples include those convicted of child pornography, which is possession of sexual images of a minor, which in Illinois, is anyone under age 17.

A Cook County jury recently acquitted R&B singer R. Kelly of child pornography charges. Had Kelly been convicted, he would have had to register as a sex offender, Gutierrez explained.

State law prohibits convicted sex offenders from living near schools or having close contact with underage children.

As a result of tougher laws in Illinois, law enforcement agencies now post photos, addresses and criminal background histories on sex offenders on Web sites such as www.isp.state.il.us/sor.

Residents feel that a lot of sex offenders in Illinois come from the prison population.

“My cousin did nine years in Stateville for drugs, and when he came out, he was gay,” said Lexus Taylor, 43, who lives in the 60619 ZIP code.

“He told me that he was gang raped in prison and that a lot of men are raped daily while serving time so that by the time they are released, all they know is a man’s body.”

Fred Hampton, 48, said a similar thing happened to his brother.

“He was locked up for two years, and when he came out, he had this urge for younger girls,” said Hampton, who lives in the 60609 ZIP code. “The family had to totally disown him because he kept trying to mess with all the little girls in the family, and he was not like that before he went in.”

Garrison agrees that the prison system does play a part in a sex offender’s whereabouts once they are released.

“Over 100,000 inmates are expected to be released from state prisons this year, and a lot of them are sex offenders,” Garrison said.

“Even if some of them were not convicted of sex crimes when they entered the correctional facility, a lot of them are existing as sex offenders, and that’s a whole other problem the criminal justice system must deal with.”

Defender contributing writer Jakina Hill contributed to this story.

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Photo by Worsom Robinson/Chicago Defender

Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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