Within the last year, the number of registered sex offenders living two miles from the GC campus has dropped from 30 to 25. However, four miles from campus, 25 more reside at the Bostick Nursing Center, where students sometimes volunteer.
“The Bostick Nursing [Center] was originally supposed to be funded and operated with the ‘patients’ being sent to them still under sentence with the Department of Corrections,” said detective Haley Beckham. “At the last minute the funding was taken, and Bostick became a nursing home for all.”
Beckham works for the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Department as an intelligence officer, and one of her tasks is maintaining the sex offender registry.
Although the offenders at the nursing home are not under sentence, most of the patients are individuals that were released from prison.
“As of date we have 25 sex offenders at Bostick,” Beckham said. “They range from being 30 [years old] to having them come in to register in their 70s. We have predators that live there, and we have low risk offenders. Most of them have not been leveled.”
Offenders are either classified as a level one low-risk sexual offender, or a level three high-risk sexual predator.
These levels are assigned by the sex offender registry review board. The ratings do not indicate levels of danger, they indicate risk of recidivism, meaning an offender’s likelihood of repeating the crime.
“Low risk doesn’t mean no risk,” Beckham said. “It just means the board has placed them as a low risk for recidivism.”
Although the criteria for each assigned level is different, the laws governing them are the same, with
one additional measure for predators: wearing an ankle monitor at all times.
“The only laws that govern them and make each sex offender different is the proximity laws that govern where they can live, work [and] volunteer,” Beckham said. “Again, this is based on when they committed their crime.”
A number of students volunteer at Bostick nursing home, posing a question of safety.
If a student wants to volunteer, Beckham recommends they ask the nursing home staff beforehand and find out whether there have been any issues.
“To my knowledge, the only incidents that have occurred [are] from offenders ashing or exposing themselves to staff,” Beckham said.
According to the online registry, one resident of Bostick is rated a predator, and the rest are offenders. However, it is important to note that many offenders on the registry have not received a rating due to a lack of resources.
“I believe that they do an amazing job but just don’t have the time, money [and/or] resources to do it adequately,” Beckham said.
Still, she said she wishes all sex offenders were leveled. Checking the registry for an individual’s rating, if they have one, and their crime is a way of gauging danger.
Closer to campus, the most logical reason for the decrease of sex offenders is that they have moved, according to both Beckham and Donald Challis, chief of GC police and director of Public Safety.
Sex offenders must report to police when changing addresses, but only a sex offender convicted as an adult, not as a minor, would become public information.
Although the number has decreased, one case of sexual assault earlier this year received local coverage.
The assault reportedly occurred behind Bell Hall on Feb. 25, but neither the victim nor the assailant were GC students.
As security measures for students, the GCPD has 70 strategically located emergency call boxes.
GCPD only has a quarter-mile jurisdiction away from campus, but it pa- trols several residential areas beyond that because many students live in nearby apartments and neighborhoods.
“Even though it’s off-campus, we still want to make sure we’re doing all we can for our faculty, staff, students and community,” Challis said.
Of course, the GCPD can be directly contacted by phone.
“We would rather someone contact us about something, and it be nothing,” GC Sgt. of emergency management Michael Baker. “Because that’s what we’re here for—if there’s any way we can be of service, we’ll de nitely come running to the call.”