Investigation: Sex offenders living near bus stops

Investigation: Sex offenders living near bus stops

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Arkansas law prohibits sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or a playground; but, there are no regulations when it comes to where they live in relation to school bus stops.

Region 8 News investigated and found that it is a common occurrence in many school districts in Northeast Arkansas.

While some parents were aware sex offenders lived near their child's bus stop, others had no clue.

Paragould resident Violent Austin waits outside each morning with her great-grandson to make sure he gets safely on the bus.

"Cars won't stop hardly! She blares down on her horn and they just keep going," Austin said. "And he doesn't look, he just runs out there."

Although Austin waits with her great-grandson for the bus to stop in front of her home, other children do not have that luxury.

Austin said she often sees area children walking, in the dark sometimes, to their designated school bus stop.

"It's dark and they're walking on down here," Austin said. "It's dangerous."

Moms like Cortney Parker told Region 8 News that it is a common occurrence.

"There's a lot of that around here," Parker said.

While obvious dangers like speeding cars and distracted drivers are a concern, it is the invisible threats that moms like Parker worry about.

"They're usually by their self, there's no parent standing there with them," Parker said. "There are sex offenders that do live down here, up and down the streets and them just standing there alone is what concerns me, even if they are waiting on a school bus."

According to the Arkansas Crime Information Center, there are two registered sex offenders living on Parker's street.

Though Parker takes her children to school each morning, she sees plenty of neighborhood children waiting for the bus alone.

"When I'm in my home, I sit in my chair and I'll look out my window and catch myself keeping an eye on the other kids up and down the street," Parker said.

It is that kind of mentality, from parents and school bus drivers, that area superintendents say is so important in keeping school children safe.

"It's a very challenging position," Valley View Schools Superintendent Bryan Russell said. "Bus drivers have a very hard job and they do a great job."

Russell said bus drivers look out for more than just other cars on the road.

"That's certainly in bus driver training that you always survey the scene," Russell said. "A big dog loose or anything else that might harm small children, strange looking people at a bus stop."

Russell explained that if they do spot a potential danger, they take precautions to keep kids safe.

"Our drivers have kept students on the bus before and just have them be seated and say I'll come back by your stop toward the end," Russell said.

However, once kids get off the bus, Russell said it is up to the parents, guardians or older siblings to keep the kids safe.

"Small children, a lot of times have to fend for themselves to get in the house safely," Russell said.

That is one risk mom April Hinklin does not like to take. Hinklin and her three children live near two sex offenders.

She said that is one reason she changed their designated bus stop.

"Their bus stop, there's one down there and one down here. I moved them down here to keep an eye on them better," Hinklin said.

While the bus delivers them home safely, Hinklin said she takes an hour off work each day to make sure they get in the home safely.

"Because there's crazy people. Child molesters, people who kidnap kids! It's crazy," Hinklin said. "It's not that I don't trust my kids, it's that I don't trust everybody else."

Region 8 News spoke with multiple other school superintendents who all stressed the same thing; before the child is picked up and after they are dropped off, it is up to the parent or guardian to keep the child safe.

Again, while the sex offenders are not doing anything illegal, arming yourself with knowledge might help keep your child safe.

For information on where registered sex offenders live in relation to your home or your child's bus stop, visit the Arkansas Crime Information Center's website, indicate your town or county and search the interactive map.

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