In the state of Tennessee, sex offenders aren’t supposed to be living within a thousand feet of schools, day cares or parks, however, as WREG uncovered, a legal loophole is allowing many to live within walking distance of your child’s school.
It’s designed to keep track of sex offenders and keep them away from kids, but with more than 2,000 people on the city's sex offender registry, it seems some end up living a little too close for comfort.
WREG found more than 50 sex offenders living within a mile of Humes Middle School – one right across the street.
"Right in front of a school? How can we get our kids safe?" said parent Demetris Broaden.
Anthony Simmons – classified on the registry as being violent against children – was convicted in 2004 of indecent assault and battery on a child under the age of 14.
Yet because of that loophole, he’s living less than 200 feet from a school.
"It’s scary. It’s frightening for us and it’s frightening for our kids that we don’t know," Broaden said. "And now that we do know, it’s even more frightening, because we don’t know these people."
And they’re not all men.
Less than a block away lives Stacy Douglas, convicted of attempted rape back in 1989, and also classified as being violent against children.
Her house is just a short walk from Humes, the school Broaden’s 12-year-old son attends.
She said her son has to walk around that neighborhood to meet her on some days, which means he might be walking right past Douglas' house.
"Sometimes when I be kind of late coming to pick him up, he’ll at least have to walk down this way and around the corner," she said.
Father Terrence Walker was shocked to hear that there are women on registry.
"It makes me think more about the men because you’d think they’re the aggressors, so if the women are the aggressors, it could be anybody," he said. "That’s how I look at it, it could be anybody."
Walker has two kids at Humes, a 12-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son.
"It really does concern me now, it really does," he said. "It put a whole other perception on my mind because I know how easy it is for one of these kids to just get involved in all this stuff going on."
The registry also lists 25 sex offenders living within walking distance of Delano Elementary, including convicted rapist Joseph Smith.
And there are nearly 50 sex offenders living near Cherokee Elementary.
Claudell Whitfield – who lives less than a half mile away – was convicted of indecent acts with a child in 1994.
"They shouldn’t be able to live that close to the school," Broaden said.
Near Memphis Business Academy, there are 35 more sex offenders, like Joseph Washington, who's on the registry for a 2003 attempted rape and lives just a four-minute walk away.
Criminal defense attorney Jeff Lee primarily represents clients accused of sex crimes.
He said one of the biggest problems with the sex offender registry is that it’s simply too cluttered.
"It’s overwhelming," he said.
The list, he argued, is filled with people convicted of non-violent offenses, such as 18-year-olds busted for having sex with younger teens.
"As a parent, I’d be like, 'Is this thing even protecting us?'" Lee said.
Lee believes the registry could potentially be a useful tool to prevent crimes if there were fewer people on it.
"We’re spending so much time enforcing all of them and they’re so overburdened that they’re really not paying attention to the small minority of sex offenders that we should be watching," he said.
That – coupled with rigid restrictions on where they can live, work and even attend treatment – means some violent sex offenders are slipping through the cracks.
By law, no more than three sex offenders can live in one house or apartment complex, Lee said.
"What ends up happening is the laws are written so broadly, to give them as much leverage as they want, but then because there’s really nowhere they can live in this city, they end of giving all sorts of exemptions, " he said.
According to Lee, those exemptions are up to each individual parole officer, who has the power to change the restrictions on a case-by-case basis, sometimes allowing sex offenders to live just feet from a school.
"It’s just very scary," Broaden said.
Lee thinks streamlining the sex offender registry would help parents keep their children safe from predators.
"I think what we need to do is really go through the entire list and say, 'Is this somebody from 40 years ago who had an underage girlfriend when he was a teenager too? Let’s stop monitoring them. Let’s really spend time on the ones who are dangerous,'" he said.
You can find out if sex offenders are living in your neighborhood or near your child's school by visiting the Tennessee Sex Offender Registry's website.