Bella Vista Sees Increase of Sex Offenders

BELLA VISTA, Ark. - - The town of Bella Vista, Arkansas  has seen a significant increase in the amount of sex offenders living in the area. The city has become home to almost 5 times as many offenders than previous years.

"In 2004, there were only a dozen. in 13 years we've gone from 12 to 53 so that's quite an increase," said, Lieutenant. Barb Shrum, with the Bella Vista Police Department."

According to the Bella Vista Police Department, the increase in offenders can be attributed to numerous things but mostly to the layout of the city.

"Some of it is the growth, the parks systems, in the neighboring towns, no schools. It's the only place that's available to them unless they live out in the county where there are fewer schools," Shrum said.

If a sex offender is registered as a Level 2 or higher, the police go door to door to notify those who live in that neighborhood.

"Notifications are strictly put out to protect the public and to give you the awareness to be able to protect your own child and other children and other people in the area that might be susceptible to fall victim to sex offenders." Shrum said.

KNWA spoke to a mother of three who said she lives right next door to a sex offender.

"The kids don't go outside on their own and stuff like that. At first I was put off by that information being here with young kids and stuff but you can't escape potential danger no matter where you live and so it's just important when you're a parent to be vigilant no matter where you are," said Kaci Churchill.

Shannon Womack has lived in Bella Vista since 2009 and said she makes her children aware of the dangers in the community.

I tell my children all the time I have a nine-year-old son and he very much knows that there are bad people out there and you better be aware of your surroundings and pay attention to what's going on.

Over half of the registered offenders in Bella Vista are Level 2 offenders, Meaning they have a moderate risk of repeating the offense.

"It's not the greatest news that anyone wants to get but at least that news and information is out there and you're able to know it and be able to plan accordingly." Churchill said.

The Bella Vista Police Department said the number of sex offenders living there can increase any day. It solely depends on who decides to live there.

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