Hampton mom's push to restrict where sex offenders live gets lawmakers' support

KDKA Investigates: Hampton mom's push to restrict where sex offenders live gets lawmakers' support

HAMPTON, Pa. (KDKA) - Violent sexual predators are living just steps away from playgrounds and elementary schools right here in our area. It's a common yet false belief that sex offenders can't come close, or live close, to our kids. 

"Anyone in Pennsylvania should be thinking about this issue, especially if they have children because there are a lot of schools and daycares in Pennsylvania, and this could be happening anywhere." 

There's actually nothing to stop sex offenders from coming too close for comfort. Currently, Pennsylvania is regarded as one of the most lenient states when it comes to where sex offenders can live. 

A few months ago, KDKA-TV reported about a local mother who was leading the charge to change that, and now she has the support of some local lawmakers in Harrisburg.

Sounds of happy children fill Francis Drive in Hampton daily, and you'd never know the person living closest to the playground is classified as a top-tier sexual predator.

"The fact that he can look out his back door and walk to the edge of his property and be on the baseball field at my children's elementary school is really troublesome," said Katie Wymard, mother of three.

Wymard didn't shield her three kids from the truth; she told them.

"How do you talk to a first grader about a sexually violent predator that God forbid could come on the playground? It was a hard conversation. My kids were scared, and they still talk about it," Wymard said.

She's now starting a letter-writing campaign and alerting parents that currently live in Pennsylvania that nothing stops a sex offender from moving in -- even ones considered to be the most dangerous.

"Sexually violent offenders are the worst classification of violent offenders in the state and it's my understanding that they are essentially deemed that they're not able to be rehabilitated and they will reoffend," said Wymard.

So who keeps track of the offenders? KDKA Investigates learned it was just one of the things that fell by the wayside during the pandemic. Some local police departments either totally stopped or got really behind on compliance checks. It got so bad, the Allegheny County Sheriff's Department stepped up and got the county back up to date.

"We received a grant from the state which allowed us to do it on OT to pay for overtime costs, but again it's a priority and we take it very seriously," said Allegheny County Sheriff Kevin Kraus. 

It allowed deputies to spend extra time tracking down the 1,700 sex offenders currently living in Allegheny County and make sure they live where they say they live. Deputies found two of them in violation of Megan's Law. 

Youssiff Howie reported he was living in Penn Hills, but deputies found him in an apartment on the North Side.  

Donald Goldberg refused to answer his front door in Wilmerding, ignoring a requirement for police to lay eyes on every offender, which landed him back in jail. 

"We prioritize this, we understand how important it is for these communities throughout the county, people do want to know where these individuals are, including us," said Sheriff Kraus.

But just knowing where they are isn't enough for Katie Wymard. She wants our area's most serious offenders kept at a distance of at least 2,500 feet and says she's come up with a plan to make it happen.

"It will require sexually violent predators that live within 2,500 of a school or daycare to move within six months after the law is passed, so that is great for Hampton because it will apply to our situation," she said. 

Her plan now has the support of at least two local lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. They just filed buddy bills, uniting over the issue. 

"It really is a loophole in Megan's Law," said Rep. Rob Mercuri, a Republican from District 28. "That's why we've taken action both across the aisle and on my side of the aisle. We have circulated cosponsored memos articulating how we would solve this issue."

"I can't make a promise this will become law, but I can promise I will do everything in my power to raise the profile of the issue and make sure it receives as robust legislative consideration as possible and I think there is forward momentum with that," said Rep. Arvind Venkat, a Democrat from District 30. 

Both representatives are calling this common-sense legislation that would start in Hampton and impact the entire commonwealth. The bills will soon head to committee for consideration.

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