Metts, Quezada to file legislation to strengthen protections for children from sex offenders
STATE HOUSE – As Washington Park residents reel from the news that a notorious child rapist has moved to their neighborhood, Sen. Harold M. Metts and Sen. Ana B. Quezada are working on legislation to provide greater protection to children from registered sex offenders.
The legislation, which they intend to prefile ahead of the 2019 legislative session, would expand the definition of “private or public educational institutions” in the state’s sex offender registration laws to include registered daycares, and also increase from 300 feet to 500 feet the zone around such institutions in which registered sex offenders are not allowed to live.
“People in this neighborhood are rightfully terrified. Recidivist sex offenders are dangerous, and the public deserves to be protected from them. In particular, sex offenders should not be anywhere near schools or daycares filled with defenseless children,” said Senator Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence), who will be the prime sponsor of the bill. “While, yes, someone who has been released has served their sentence and must live somewhere, the whole reason for the sex offender registry is that they remain a danger to the community because of the recidivist nature of this type of offense. The current law doesn’t do enough to protect vulnerable children from known predators.”
Said Senator Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence), who will cosponsor the bill, “The situation in Washington Park brought to our attention a dangerous loophole in the sex offender laws, which is that daycares are not protected. There are several daycares in the immediate area. While we are grateful that the Providence Police are doing everything they can to protect the neighborhood, it’s clear that we need to change the law to include daycares. Further, we firmly believe the buffer zone should be bigger than 300 feet. It should be longer than a football field, and there are probably plenty of places where a sex offender can abide by the law and still look out their window and watch kids on school property. That’s totally unacceptable. We need to do better by our children.”
Richard Gardner, who moved to New York Avenue in Providence earlier this month, was convicted in 1989 of kidnapping and sexually assaulting three boys between ages 6 and 10 around Warwick. He was released from a Massachusetts facility where he was serving time for a probation violation, and remains on parole.
Nightly protests by residents have occurred on New York Avenue, and hundreds of anxious residents packed a Washington Park Neighborhood Association meeting on Oct. 17 to discuss their fears.
“At the community meeting in Washington Park, the Police Department reported that there are 500 sex offenders that they monitor in the city of Providence. This was a shocking and stunning revelation that added to the tension. I remember the days when my wife and I stood at the bus stop with our grandchildren when they were in elementary school. Our community is sick and tired of being the dumping ground for the state. The numbers in zip codes 02905 and 02907 in particular and in other parts of the city only add to the fears of parents and the community, and is unacceptable to our constituents,” said Senator Metts.
For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903