Residents of a Bucks County borough furious they had no knowledge that a counseling center was treating sexual predators led to expanded reporting legislation, HB 1874, approved by the state House of Representatives judiciary committee.
The sponsor of the bill, state Rep. Frank Farry, R-Bucks, said that last spring a resident of Hulmeville Borough was asked for directions to a treatment center. The resident was then told by the stranger that he was being treated there as a sex offender.
“Not even the local authorities knew that some of the patients at the treatment were categorized as ‘sexual violent predators’ under the Adam Walsh Act,” Farry said. “So the bill requires any counseling treating these kinds of offenders to notify the police and the district attorney.”
Farry added that no one has yet opposed the bill.
“It’s still early in the process,” he said. “But I’m hoping since it doesn’t require anything more from the offender, just from the counselor, that it shouldn’t be a problem.”
Andy Hoover, legislative director for the Pennsylvania ACLU, said it hasn’t yet had a chance to review the legislation.
The Sexual Offenders Assessment Board reviews every sex offender who must register under the Adam Walsh Act to determine whether an offender is considered sexually violent. Those considered predators become classified as sexually violent offenders. The law requires violent offenders to undergo counseling sessions on at least a monthly basis.
Under Farry’s bill, if no municipal police jurisdiction were to exist, a notice would need to be provided to the local Pennsylvania State Police barracks. Notifications would need to be provided by Jan. 15 of each year.
“Ultimately, this is about assuring residents that local law enforcement officers are aware when potentially dangerous individuals are frequenting our communities,” Farry said.
The board’s website lists 86 licensed counselors statewide.
• — J.L.K