Hilltop neighbors urged the Tacoma City Council at its meeting Tuesday to help prevent a rumored halfway house for sex offenders from moving into South Grant Street.
The house in question, in the 1600 block of South Grant Street near Stanley Elementary and Al Davies Boys & Girls Club, is owned and being renovated by Richard Garrett. Neighbors claim Garrett plans to house level 2 and 3 sex offenders – a claim Garrett disputes.
About 20 people spoke out at Tuesday’s meeting. Jeanne Peterson of the Hilltop Action Coalition told the council the neighborhood is tired of being a haven for sex offenders. She said 17 houses on Hilltop already house multiple sex offenders.
“There’s a point where we have to draw a line in the sand,” Peterson said.
Many people asked why there wasn’t a city ordinance prohibiting sex-offender housing close to schools.
“Nothing stays in the Hilltop,” said Renee Walker, who lives across the street from Garrett’s property. “Eventually, (offenders) will make their way to your house.”
City officials say that they are restricted under state law from regulating where anyone – including sex offenders – can or cannot live.
Garrett, a former convict who now works as a prison minister, has insisted he never planned to house sex offenders. He said he has thought about possibly renting the home to veterans or ex-cons who have participated in his prison ministry.
Adrian Johnson, a DOC regional housing director for Pierce County, said Tuesday that he met with Garrett last month to discuss a possible group-home plan.
“He had not mentioned making use of that residence for sex offenders when I met with him. And in fact, I told him it would not work,” Johnson said. “Because our officers would not approve the placement due to the proximity to the elementary school and the Boys & Girls Club.”
Before the council took public comment, Councilwoman Lauren Walker addressed the crowd, telling the Hilltop neighbors that the city will continue to monitor the property as Garrett renovates it.