|Residents packed council meeting to oppose center|
Monday, May 13, 2013
Hulmeville residents vow to continue efforts to rid town of sex offender treatment center
Posted: Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Hulmeville Council members say they were told an outpatient treatment center that is state licensed to treat sexually violent predators currently does not have any clients that meet that definition.
But the news did little to calm the nerves of at least 100 residents who packed Monday’s borough council meeting room to demand action to evict Resources for Human Development.
Many didn’t know that the center — which treats deviant sexual behavior and sex offenders — existed until recently. Most called the current location — in a largely residential area — inappropriate.
Some vowed to picket and patrol the area surrounding the Reetz Avenue office building on nights when counseling meetings are held. Others requested police presence at the building on the center’s meeting nights. Nearly 160 people on Monday night signed a petition calling for the building’s landlord to evict the center.
Resident David Goodman says his 8-year-old son is scared to go to the bus stop alone now.
“What are we going to do to protect the community,” he added.
Another resident claimed that the center’s clients loiter on the property and nearby streets after the meetings.
“I almost feel like they’re casing the neighborhood,” one woman said.
Council members listened to residents’ concerns, but emphasized it’s unclear if they can legally force the center to move. The borough’s zoning officer is investigating if the center meets regulations. It is located in a commercial/industrial zone, but across the street from a residential area.
“We have to follow the laws whether or not we agree with them,” Council President Thomas Wheeler told the crowd.
Pennsylvania has no restrictions on where centers that treat sex offenders or sexually violent predators can be located. Community notification is required only where a sexually violent predator resides.
Wheeler confirmed that the center failed to obtain an occupancy permit when it opened last year, a requirement to operate a business in the borough. The center’s lease runs until next year, council members said.
While the borough could issue a cease and desist order, it would likely close for only “an hour” until proper paperwork was filed, Wheeler said. “It’s not going to stop them. They’re there,” he added.
Councilwoman Judy Coleman — who lives one block from the center — said that the center’s director told council members that about a dozen clients are treated there for sexually deviant behavior, but none are designated as sexually violent predators.
Pennsylvania defines a sexually violent predator as a sexual offender who has been determined by the court, after evaluation by the Sexual Offenders Assessment Board, to have a mental abnormality or personality disorder that makes the person likely to engage in predatory sexually violent offenses.
Under the law, SVPs, as they are known, once released from prison, are required to attend monthly outpatient counseling sessions for the rest of their lives in a program approved by the state’s Sexual Offenders Assessment Board.
Police Chief Tom Walton promised to increase police patrols on Wednesday and Thursday nights, when the largest counseling meetings are held.
Resources for Human Development is one of four behavioral health providers in Bucks County with state certification to treat individuals deemed sexually violent predators, according to the Pennsylvania Sexual Offenders Assessment Board, which licenses the centers.
According to its website, RHD provides an array of human and behavioral services including programs for recovering substance abusers, the homeless and people with intellectual disabilities.
But several residents claim that as recently as two weeks ago RHD’s website listed only information about its sex offender treatment program for its Reetz Avenue location.
The agency operates centers specializing in treatment and interventions for people with “problematic sexual behaviors and family abuse” also in Montgomery County and Philadelphia, according to its website. Referral sources include probation and parole offices.
Jo Ciavaglia: 215-949-4181;email: jciavaglia@phillyBurbs.com; Twitter: @jociavaglia;