The San Diego Superior Court system is considering placement of two sexually violent predators in Borrego Springs.
Friday, residents left the desert and packed the downtown courtroom to speak to the judge during public comment.
Judge David M. Gill began the hearing at 10:30am. He explained his experience with these types of cases, having presided over them before.
Residents tell NBC7 they feel as though their area has become a dumping ground for sexually violent predators (SVPs).
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County Supervisor Jim Desmond, representing Borrego Springs as part of district 5, explained to Gill that a handful of placements have been proposed by the Department of State Hospitals and Liberty Health Care in the recent past. He spoke for the Board of Supervisors when he asked that the system pause placing any SVPs in San Diego County.
Desmond said they’d like to address needed changes in the laws that would allow for their input in the decision making, as well as the affected community.
The Conditional Release Program, or CONREP, is under the authority of the California Department of State Hospitals and provides community-based supervision to patients in Phase V of the Sex Offender Commitment Program. Phases I-IV treatment is conducted in the state hospital. After a court hearing to determine if a patient can be safely supervised and treated in the community, a patient is ordered into Phase V of the Sex Offender Treatment Program by a Judge.
Friday, Martinez’s public defender, a Liberty Healthcare staff member and an attorney, also attended the hearing and spoke at times, advocating for her client’s placement at 3406 Running M Road, Borrego Springs, CA 92004. If the placement is approved, sexually violent predators are monitored 24/7 with a GPS ankle monitor, frequent unannounced visits and continued treatment, to name a few practices of the agency.
Alan Stillman, the executive direcot for Liberty Healthcare did clarify that staff members do not relocate to physically be near the patient. He also stated how in the 19 years, Liberty Health Care has serviced the department of state hospitals, there have been 16 to 17 svp violations ever, in which staff members handled the situation before any victimization took place.
Frequently throughout the hearing, Judge Gill mentioned how he has witness the thorough work of Liberty Healthcare when finding a landlord that will house their clients. NBC7 requested comment from the State Department of Hospitals’ process, when operated through the placement agency that facilitates the move.
Borrego Springs resident Nancy Mcrae spoke about her personal trauma during public comment.
“When I was 20 years old, a predator broke in through my apartment window at night when I was there alone. They’re predators, they prey. They watch you. They know your habits,” said Mcrae.
She joined a packed court room the Hall of Justice court building. Many residents spoke to Judge Gill during public comment, asking that he not approve Martinez’s move in their neighborhood. Aside from the poor cell service, lack of street lights by design, residents told NBC7 the average law enforcement response is 28 minutes.
Supervisor Desmond described how children would in fact be living just doors away from Martinez, if approved. He stressed how even though Borrego Springs, may be an underserved community but Borrego Springs prides itself on the tight knit family atmosphere and safety for their kids.
“Maybe they took good pictures. Maybe they brought some statistics, but it doesn’t seem like anybody actually went out abd spoke to the residents to see if this was an appropriate location to house svp Martinez,” said one resident.
Middle School and High School principal Victoria Baay described her neighborhood.
“We live in a safe community where we know the neighbors, and we can trust our kids walking to my house with their dog to come over to visit to see my kids,” said Baay.
One resident, Mike Ford asked Alan Stillman, who was participating virtually, how the landlord of the proposed property came into contact with Liberty Healthcare. Stillman did not have a clear answer and said “you would have to ask the landlord.” He also commented that his company sifts through thousands of landlords advertising rental openings.
The court will reconvene July 22nd when Gill will make a decision, having visited Borrego Springs with Liberty Healthcare.