Local

Fresno residents balk at plan to put sex offender in their neighborhood

Northwest Fresno residents gather outside of a vacant home that was to house a sex offender. The Department of State Hospitals withdrew the placement in the wake of protests, but the residents are afraid they’ll place him in a different vacant house in the area.
Northwest Fresno residents gather outside of a vacant home that was to house a sex offender. The Department of State Hospitals withdrew the placement in the wake of protests, but the residents are afraid they’ll place him in a different vacant house in the area. tpope@fresnobee.com

Residents from a northwest Fresno neighborhood came out Wednesday to protest the placement of a “sexually violent predator” in one of the neighborhood’s vacant homes west of Highway 99.

Several dozen people turned out after the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday that Jeffrey F. Snyder, 61, would be placed in the five-bedroom house. The District Attorney’s Office, which noted the location was selected by the Department of State Hospitals, said it was soliciting public comments on the location as part of a formal response at a court hearing in late September.

Prior to Wednesday’s protest, the District Attorney’s Office released another statement announcing that the house was no longer under consideration for Snyder. But this didn’t make residents feel better. Many houses in the neighborhood bore for-sale signs, and protesters said there’s nothing to stop one of the other homes from being purchased to house sex offenders.

“As a mental health clinician, this is a bad idea,” said Beverly Medina, who lives nearby. “These kids can be stalked without these people moving out of the house. They can watch kids going to school; the school is too close – too much access.”

The two-story house at 5740 N. La Paz Ave. is less than 1 mile northwest of the Island Water Park and less than 1 mile southeast of Herndon-Barstow Elementary School.

“A stalker or a pedophile is interested in prepubescent children. There are plenty of them in this neighborhood,” said Medina, who is a family therapist and spent 22 years in the U.S. Navy. “He doesn’t have to come out and approach anyone; he can actually pick somebody watching in a window – a victim. We don’t know, so why take the chance?”

The consensus among the protesters was that it wouldn’t have just been one man in the house, Snyder in this case. They said it was part of a pilot program that would have placed more sex offenders until the building occupancy was reached – two people per room totaling 10, they said.

“We do not want him next door. We do not want him as our neighbor,” Medina said.

Stephen Smith lives a block away and helped organize the protest. He said he helped connect the neighborhood on the matter via localized social media website Nextdoor.com. During the protest, a preteen boy came out of the home next door, got onto his pogo stick and came over to see what the fuss was about.

“Look at this,” Smith said, pointing to the boy with his pogo stick. “It’s his front yard next door – ground zero. That’s his target. And that’s the saddening, sickening part.”

Rene Ramirez, an emergency room doctor at Community Regional Medical Center, coordinated the protest and called the District Attorney’s Office to object to Snyder’s placement. Despite the state’s apparent change of heart, Ramirez said the fight is not over.

“Yes, it’s a small win that he’s not living at this house, but he could still be next door to you,” Ramirez said. “They could put him in Clovis. They could put him in southwest Fresno, southeast Fresno. The fact is, he probably shouldn’t be anywhere near kids at the very least.”

The plans for the house on La Paz Avenue may have fallen through, but residents fear that another house nearby may become the new location for the sex offender to be placed. A status hearing on the case is set for 9 a.m. Sept. 27 in Fresno Superior Court, Department 71.

Another hearing is likely after that, once the state finds another proposed location to house Snyder.

  Comments