A number of complaints from parents at the Boys and Girls Club has forced the Department of Public Safety to consider an alternative location for the driver examiner's office.
Monday, Karen Gentry with DPS asked Ottawa County commissioners to explore options for relocating the examiner's office. Gentry said complaints have been made regarding registered sex offenders being in proximity to children when applying for a driver's license.
Ottawa County Commission Chairman Russell Earls said Thursday that the county does not currently have an alternate location for the driver examination office.
“We are talking with city officials to see what is available,” Earls said.
The chairman said there are no immediate solutions to the problem.
“This is not a move we can make anytime soon,” said Earls.
According to county officials, the Boys and Girls Club and driver examiner's office have shared the current location for 10 to 12 years.
Both were moved there in the late 1990's when the former grocery store was purchased for use as a courthouse annex.
Sheriff Terry Durborow said he has never really considered the potential problems with having the Boys and Girls Club in the same building as the driver exam office.
“I think these parents have a legitimate complaint,” Durborow said. “I don't like the idea of having registered sex offenders in the same location as children either. This is something we should explore.”
Currently, there are 66 registered sex offenders in Ottawa County. Oklahoma law restricts sex offenders from residing near areas commonly attended by children - including schools and parks. There are few restrictions with respect to sex offenders conducting business in locations where children are.
Residence restrictions are intended to prevent recidivistic predatory offenses, yet in practice they target only a fraction of sex crimes, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
“The assumption that children are at great risk posed by sex offenders lurking in schoolyards or playgrounds is not supported by data,” said Kara McCarthy, public relations director with the bureau. “Most sexually abused children are victimized by someone they know and trust. Only about seven percent of sex crimes against minors are perpetrated by a stranger.”
According to the majority of empirical research, most child sexual abuse is perpetrated by family members or close acquaintances. About 40 percent of sexual assaults take place in a victim's own home, and 20 percent take place in the home of a friend, neighbor or relative, according to McCarthy.