Police resist sexual predator’s S.F. placement 

More than 20 years ago Paul George went to prison for sexually assaulting children in San Francisco. He was a "groomer" — he developed relationships with early pubescent boys and used his position of trust to coerce them into having sex with him.

Now, local law enforcement officials are trying to block his impending release from a state mental hospital back to The City.

George, 56, is part of a special classification of so-called "sexually violent predators." He is considered a higher-risk category than normal sex offenders or even so-called "high-risk" offenders. George is the only sexually violent predator to be ordered released to San Francisco in 2006.

When he was released from prison in April 1998 after serving 10 years and six months of a 14-year, 8-month sentence, a San Francisco civil court ruled him sexually violent and sent him to a treatment program at Atascadero State Hospital.

Since then, George has participated in a five-step program at Atascadero, where he admitted to molesting more than 100 boys, his lawyer, Brendan Conroy, said Friday. But Conroy said he has made progress with his therapy and is on the road to rehabilitation, having completed three of five steps. He is participating in the fourth step now. The fifth step of the program is life on the outside.

In March 2006, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Mary Morgan ordered George’s release over the objections of the California Board of Mental Health, which administers the conditional release program.

George was in step three of his program at the time he petitioned for release in July 2005. Conroy said two of three state mental health evaluators who testified at the hearings approved of the release. Two of the evaluators who testified were assigned by the state. The third, who gave a favorable release recommendation, was independently hired by Conroy, he told The Examiner on Friday.

Now, a year after a San Francisco Superior Court judge ordered George’s release, the state Board of Mental Health, which is charged with placing him, has met with resistance from San Francisco law enforcement officials, and has had difficulty adhering to state law. George will remain in Atascadero until a suitable location can be found for his release.

In early December, San Francisco police Chief Heather Fong sent a letter to Judge Morgan, as well as local law enforcement agencies and the Board of Supervisors, protesting George’s release into San Francisco. The District Attorney’s Office has also formally opposed his release in The City.

"Because of the dense, neighborhood-themed demographics of San Francisco, virtually any proposed community placement of Mr. George in the county would violate the imposed restrictions," Fong wrote.

Police and community members are only given the opportunity to comment on the placement of sexually violent predators in the conditional release program, not other sex offenders. The vast majority of sex offenders are not considered sexually violent predators, according to California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesman Bill Sessa.

On Friday, he said there are roughly 10,000 sex offenders on parole statewide, 3,000 of whom are considered high risk. He estimated that one in 10 in San Francisco was under the supervision of the state.

Other sex offenders in San Francisco are on county probation after serving jail time or other county penalties, but many are under no constriction at all, having completed their parole or probation.

Only seven sexually violent predators have been released from state hospitals since the inception of the Conditional Release Program in 1996, according to California Board of Mental Health spokeswoman Kirsten Macintyre. Of those, two have been sent back to hospitals, including Carey Verse, who was ordered back to Atascadero on Monday.

One offender, Brian DeVries, released in 2003, has since been released unconditionally, no longer ruled a sexually violent predator.

Web site: Almost 1,000 sex offenders in The City

As state agencies and the courts work to place a sexually violent predator in San Francisco over the objections of local law enforcement, a Web site dedicated to tracking sex offenders statewide indicates that nearly 1,000 registered offenders live in The City.

The Megan’s Law Web site reports 997 registered sex offenders living in San Francisco, with the highest concentration in the Tenderloin.

With its affordable apartments and high concentration of residential hotels, the Tenderloin has become a haven in the last 20 years for sex offenders, as well as immigrant families and those down on their luck.

The combination was "not a good match," said Midge Wilson, executive director of the Tenderloin-based Bay Area Women’s and Children’s Center.

"It’s a geographically small neighborhood with a high concentration of young children who have limited resources. Most of the housing is single room, percentage-wise, so the children are out and around in the neighborhood," Wilson said.

Sexually violent predators are subject to strict terms and conditions as part of conditional release. In addition to not being allowed to live near schools, parks or places where children congregate, they must report to state agents daily, are subject to searches and polygraph tests and face stringent travel controls. Some, such as Paul George, may not even watch television shows that may arouse their urges.

Under a new state law known as Jessica’s Law, passed as Proposition 83 in November, George is prohibited from living within 2,000 feet of any school, park or place that children may congregate. In a city as densely populated as San Francisco, that leaves almost no options.

While a challenge to that law won a temporary restraining order against the residency restriction, prior laws prevent offenders from living within one-quarter mile of schools. High-risk offenders had to stay one-half mile away, while the restrictions governing sexually violent predators — the highest-risk category — are decided on a case-by-case basis.

amartin@examiner.com

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