Target 2 Investigates: Parents concerned 'sexually violent' offenders moving into neighborhood

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Parents living in a Green Bay neighborhood are outraged and scared to learn two registered sex offenders were scheduled to move in Thursday, and they only learned about it Wednesday night.

Their concern centers on two men deemed sexually violent by the state, but based on a judge's order and a relatively new state law, they must be released in Green Bay.

It's the location that's raising all the questions.

Forty-three-year old Howard Carter and 56-year old Andrew Ashton were both convicted of second degree sexual assault of a child, but court records show a judge issued an order, saying they have fulfilled their time at Sand Ridge Treatment Center, a state facility that houses sexually violent people, and they were scheduled to move into a home on Green Bay's west side Thursday.

Neighbors came to Target 2 Investigates, asking how this is allowed in an area full of young kids and what's being done to alert them in the future.

"Everybody is very scared. We just don't know what to do. We have no idea what to do," says one neighbors, who didn't want to use his name, fearing his family's safety.

The father and homeowner says he and other parents on Liberty Street found out Wednesday night that the two men were moving in less than 24 hours later.

"Literally finding out 13 hours ago via social media gives us no time to educate our children about this and what they do and how this is going to change their life and ours, all of ours," he says. "Our security is gone."

Clearly frustrated and upset, this father has contacted city and state officials.

The response? It's not a violation to have such little notice, nor is it illegal for them to live there.

A Green Bay ordinance requires registered sex offenders seek permission from a city committee to live within 1,500 feet of places where children gather.

The 900 block of Liberty Street, where the offenders are moving, falls into a small group of areas in the city where no permission is needed.

"In this case, there's no need to go before the board," explains Green Bay Police Lt. Rick Belanger. "This is a home that doesn't fall within the ordinance."

"We're not close enough to a park or we're not close enough to a school or not close enough to a daycare, but literally there's nine kids that live on this block and that apparently doesn't matter," says a neighbor, angry.

In this case, because the two men are violent offenders, and under DHS supervision, they are restricted and barely able to leave the home, under what DHS compares to house arrest.

Belanger has been fielding plenty of calls from concerned parents.

"A piece of advice, if I were in the footsteps of those neighbors and overly worried, they should never see these people. And if they do, photograph it and call us," he advises.

A state law, enacted in March of 2018, requires local communities help find housing for sexually violent persons and face fines if they don't.

Liberty Street neighbors say an older couple owned the home last year and didn't know it was sold and being renovated to house sex offenders.

District Alderman Brian Johnson tells us he's taking the concerns to city hall, hoping to create ordinances that would require notification of at least a few weeks and also get Green Bay city officials more involved in placements.

Both Johnson and Belanger say they are working to coordinate a community meeting in the coming days.

But, as of now, that's little relief to current neighbors, who are now considering selling their homes.

"How can I stay?" asks one father.

Late this afternoon, in a statement, a DHS spokesperson says "Local law enforcement is responsible for notifying the community after the court approves an individual's supervised release plan. Community notification may be done in the form of flyers, door-to-door contact, a press release, and/or a community meeting."

DHS also says the release program is intended to keep the community safe, adding, "Unlike the majority of sex offenders, who are released from the Department of Corrections (DOC) to live anywhere they choose, persons placed in the community on supervised release remain under the strict supervision of the Department of Health Services. DHS uses as many measures as possible under the law to protect the community from any potential risk, regardless of whether a person is placed in a rural or urban area. It is important to remember that the 980 program, and supervised release are safeguards to the community. There are tens of thousands of convicted sex offenders living across the state. Right now, there are 50 people living on supervised release.
More than 20 years of experience has shown that supervised release is safer for the community than direct discharge of a patient, who may live where they choose without any supervision at all. Supervised release clients receive the support and structure they need to increase the likelihood of a successful transition into the community, because lifestyle instability, including homelessness, poverty, and unemployment, increase the risk of recidivism."