The electrical outlets at the base of the tower are the attraction. These parolees are required to wear electronic monitoring devices on their ankles. The devices hold a charge for about 12 hours and must be charged for an hour in the morning and an hour at night. The trouble is dozens of these men live in a homeless tent encampment beneath a freeway overpass at the edge of downtown. They do not have access to electricity.
They were using an outlet at the state parole office, but their access was cut off two weeks ago. Their move to the water tower has not been embraced by the city. The old water tower also serves as a visitor's center for downtown. Police Chief Jerry Dyers said it's not an appropriate place for sex offenders to gather. "This is not the message we want to send. When people come to the water tower which is a visitor's center, that is not the image we want to portray," said Dyer.
Dyer said he is working with the state parole office to find another plug-in location, but indicated it might take awhile. In the meantime the city manager's office may turn off the power to the outlets at the tower.
One homeless sex offender who didn't want to be identified said, "Once you cut that off where are we going to go? We're going to go somewhere else, and they're going to that off. Then we'll go somewhere else and they will cut that off."
Without a source of electricity to charge their monitors the men will be breaking the law. Once the monitors are dead the men will be un-trackable to the law enforcement agencies that are supposed to be keeping track of them.
Brian Semsen, a Baptist minister who works with the offenders said the men in the camp are trying to comply with the law, but are being treated unfairly. "These folks out here on the street are the Lepers of our day. In Jesus' time Leper's were considered unclean. There were laws requiring them to segregate. They had to shout "unclean, unclean" when they approached others so they could warn them to stay away. Now these folks, these men are the Lepers of our day." Semsen said.
The sex offenders know they are unwanted, but said if they don't find access to electricity nearby, they will have to use outlets at businesses on the Fulton Mall, a popular public shopping area.