TRAVERSE CITY — Morning and afternoon walks to the bus stop create a daily dose of anxiety, concern and fear for 9-year-old Skyy Elliott and her step-mom, Alyssa Rennie.
A convicted tier 3 sex offender lives right behind the stop.
“The bus stop is right there,” Skyy said. “We look at his house. We don’t feel safe.”
Rennie and another parent, Megan Baase, said the proximity of the bus stop to the residence of registered sex offender Clifford Farrar, 43, prompted them to ask Traverse City Area Public Schools to move the stop a few blocks down the road.
District officials won’t budge. TCAPS Chief Financial Officer Paul Soma called the situation a difficult one and said he sympathizes with parents. But Soma said the district can’t move bus stops based on proximity to sex offenders’ dwellings because there are so many in the area.
More than 500 registered sex offenders live in the Grand Traverse region, over 250 in Grand Traverse County alone.
“We have literally hundreds of convicted sex offenders,” Soma said. “It’s a tough one for us. (One of) the challenges is, this is a mobile population. They don’t sit still for long.”
The issue also is a challenge for others, namely those convicted of sex offenses. The Michigan Public Sex Offender Registry documents online sex offenders’ addresses, photos, offense and even what vehicles they drive.
Some experts said the entry of a sex offense conviction into the state registry means sex offenders are ostracized and scrutinized to extreme levels.
Hollida Wakefield, a forensic psychologist from Minnesota, said the rate of recidivism for sex offenders and public fears simply don’t match up.
“I will ask lay people to estimate the recidivism of sex offenders and I get estimates like 90 to 95 percent,” Wakefield said. “One really good study showed 6 to 7 percent. The most they ever showed was 10 or 12 percent, but because of the media emphasizing certain high-profile sex offenses, people feel they are in great danger from anyone who ever committed one.”