Concerns raised in Pierce County over McNeil Island sex offenders settling there

TACOMA -- There is concern that Pierce County is becoming a dumping ground for sex offenders. New numbers show a disproportionate number of offenders released from the Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island stay in Pierce County.

People who live in south Tacoma are concerned about the number of sex offenders who live nearby. According to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, there are more than 50 in a one-mile radius of Sawyer Park.

“It worries me a lot because I have little sisters, and they like to take off just by themselves,” Traveante Bell said Monday.

It turns out that current laws may be contributing to the situation. When sex offenders are released from the SCC on McNeil Island, they can choose which county they wish to live in. So many stay nearby.

“Pierce County is receiving more than our fair share,” said prosecutor Mark Lindquist.

According to The News Tribune of Tacoma, 41 offenders have been released from McNeil Island since 2012. Fifteen of those were released in Pierce County, even though only three lived there beforehand.

“There are services available in Pierce County and that makes it easy to dump disproportionate number of offenders here,” said Lindquist.

There is a state law that says the Department of Corrections has to return released prisoners to the county where they offended. Even though McNeil Island’s sex offenders aren’t technically prisoners but patients, Lindquist thinks they should have to follow the same requirement.

“I’m working with legislators on a fix so the offenders are released more evenly around the state," he said.

Parents hope a law is passed soon, because they don’t want their neighborhood to become a dumping ground for sex offenders.

“I got five daughters, I’m not having that. They aren’t going to come here,” said Dwayne Krayemburg.

“It just makes me want to move out of the community. It makes me not feel comfortable any more,” added Bell.

No one at the state Department of Social and Health Services, which runs the SCC on McNeil Island, was available to answer questions Monday about the situation.