How Are Sexually Violent Predators Placed?

SACRAMENTO -- A sexually violent predator will be moving into a Yuba County home Thursday. This comes just two days after it was announced another sex offender will not be allowed back into a Roseville neighborhood for allegedly violating his parole.

So what challenges does the state have in housing sexual predators? And what, if anything, can people do if one is placed in their neighborhood?

"I bought my wife a gun already," said Joel Garcia.

Garcia and his family's way of life is about to change.

"Hobby airplanes we used to fly around here because no traffic, they used to play soccer out, they don't do that anymore. Why? Because he's here, he's going to be here," Garcia said.

The "he" Garcia is talking about is 63-year-old Eldridge Chaney Jr. He is set to move in down the street Thursday.

"How are they going to rehab him here? There's nothing around here," Garcia said.

Chaney is just one of hundreds of sexually violent predators living in California. The Department of Corrections defines a sexually violent predator as a person convicted of a sexually violent offense against one or more victims and has been diagnosed with a mental disorder.

A population few want to have living next to them.

"But on the other hand, you can't just have some leper colony where we put them all," said attorney Mark Reichel.

Reichel said in 2006, 70 percent of voters supported Jessica's Law, which increased the penalties for sex offenders and limited where they could live. But in 2015, the California Supreme Court shot down the blanket restrictions.

"That's not narrowly tailored enough to each individual's needs and to what they did," Reichel said.

But just as Chaney is moving in, 60-year-old Robert Stephenson is moving out of his Roseville neighborhood. After more than two years of living in a home on Champagne Circle, investigators say they found child porn on several of his devices.

"I'm just glad he's no longer there," Roseville Vice Mayor Bonnie Groe said.

Groe happens to live in that neighborhood. And after her experience, she says she's been working with state lawmakers to give neighbors more power to say no to sex offenders moving in.

"Let's hope that we can make a change, because nobody should have the feeling of being unsafe in their own home because the state has allowed a sexual offender to live next door," she said.

However, Reichel warns neighbors should have more faith in the system.

"Their re-offense to those in their own community, where they're placed, is probably very, very low," Reichel said. "We can't lock somebody up for life when the crime doesn't call for that."

FOX40 reached out to the California Department of State Hospitals to learn more about how the process of where to place sex offenders works. Their answers are below:

Question: How are locations found for Sexually Violent Predators to live in?

The search for appropriate housing does not begin until after a judge grants a SVP conditional release AND has determined the individual's county of domicile.

The first step is to review any past housing searches that have been conducted in the identified county. If no searches have previously been conducted, then a new one will begin. 

Next, the county is notified in writing by DSH of the upcoming release. The county is asked if they want to create a housing search committee. A housing search committee may include representatives from local law enforcement, district attorney's office or other county administrators. The committee would meet regularly with the Executive Director of CONREP to receive updates on the housing search. Counties are not required to form a committee. If they decide not to, the search is still conducted and findings are relayed to the court.

The third step is the beginning of the actual housing search. Staff examines existing searches for properties that were previously identified. Such information is used only as a starting point. Staff uses many resources to find potential properties for rent including review of newspaper and Craigslist advertisements; visiting local real estate offices and even, driving through neighborhoods in search of "For Rent" signs.

GPS data is used to identify areas that meet legal distancing requirements.

Next, the staff begins contacting property owners to gauge their interest in renting the property to someone who is a SVP. When a property owner shows interest, the property in question is visited by the staff. They examine the rental property and also verify the measurements to any schools or parks. They spend some time in the neighborhood to gather information about the number of children in the neighborhood, their ages, and other factors that may be of interest to the judge.

Each property that is visited is added to a housing report summary which is shared with the housing search committee (if one exists) and will later be presented to the court during a housing hearing. 

If a property is approved by the court, a hearing date is set 45 days in the future to allow notification requirements of county officials and neighboring property owners. Even though a placement has been approved, a housing search does not stop. Staff continues to search for other possible properties.

Question: What measures are in place when an SVP is released to a residence?

Supervision is in place 24-hours a day and seven days a week when initially released. Supervision reduces over time depending upon behavior and improvements. The level of supervision is continuously evaluated based on the patient's behavior and improvements. The amount of time close supervision remains in place varies from patient to patient.

The use of close supervision does not change other requirements for the patient. In other words, the patient will remain under GPS monitoring; the home or living unit is still subject to searches; and the individual must still report to in-person meetings, etc. The close supervision is there to guard against the individual committing any new crimes. Any failure to follow the rules regarding treatment, drug screening, surveillance and examinations may result in a return to a state hospital.