Round Lake Beach - Hot spot for offenders

Round Lake Beach - Hot spot for offenders

February 14, 2008

ROUND LAKE BEACH -- Jennifer Zimmer has lived much of her life at her two-story Pleasant Drive home.

Growing up there, the 26-year-old knows the neighborhood well . She knows its quirks, and its charm.

She knows it's not the safest place for her 4-year-old son, Bamm.

"I won't let him play outside by himself. He can't even trick-or-treat around here," Zimmer said.

There's too much trouble, she said. Too many people she can't trust. And there's another bane, too -- the neighborhood is a hot spot for sex offenders.

For unexplainable reasons, Zimmer's neighborhood has more registered sex offenders than any other in Lake County. The one-square-mile area south of Rollins Road, near Cedar Lake Road, has just over 30 sex offenders living in it. Similarly sized residential areas here and elsewhere rarely have more than a dozen sex offenders.

"I don't know why it is," Zimmer said.

There's no explanation for the amount of offenders living there, said Round Lake Beach Deputy Chief Rich Chiarello.

There is no conscious effort to bring them to the area, and he says there's obviously not any advocates for sex offenders welcoming them in.

Nonetheless, Chiarello said his department is aware of the concentration, and he is taking steps to curb any problems. Round Lake Beach has one officer whose main job is tracking and pursuing sex offenders in the area to make sure they're complying with their sentencing.

"We meticulously identify and track those that are registered and vigorously pursue those that are in violation," Chiarello said. "We have not identified any instance where there is a sex offender in that area re-offending people."

Despite the lack of problems, the high concentration of offenders can be reason for concern, neighbors said.

Gary Hotsinpiller of Juneway Terrace said he was aware of the high concentration by tracking the offenders online. He said doesn't fear for himself, but is hopeful police keep the area safe.

Sylvia Abercrombie, a Clarendon Drive resident, doesn't have children, but thinks efforts need to be made to inform people when sex offenders live nearby.

"I believe (police officers) do have a duty to tell us there are sex offenders near us.

During the summer, (Fairview Park) is packed with kids," Abercrombie said.

Other residents take on the responsibly on their own. Miguel Salguero lives with a four-year-old daughter on East End Avenue said he tries to be aware of who lives near him and what goes on.

"We have kids, we want to make sure (things are safe)," Salguero said.