A new group, Residents Against Sex Offenders (RASO) picketed the offices of the Northern Ireland Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NIACRO) this week in protest at the number of paedophiles they claim are being housed in the Dublin Road area.
Protest organiser Neil House says the group’s mission is to raise the profile of communities who “have to suffer daily the problem of sex offenders “and get government bodies to liaise with affected communities.
He said: “We live in a community where sex offences are rife, we don’t want offenders between two working class communities.
“The statistics are shocking in south Belfast, and we’ve been campaigning at the hostel concerned and we’ve been having meetings in different communities.
He said the organisation, while getting answers through Freedom of Information enquiries, had been hampered by its lack of professional knowledge. He said RASO had been learning as it went along how to deal with professional organisations and how to get answers from them.
“We’re not lawyers,” he said. “We have had to just learn as we go along.
“By the time we got our figures the system is on a PR exercise,” he added, citing a report last week claiming sex offenders were being well managed.
He said: “Eighty per cent of offences aren’t reported, which means there could be hundreds of offenders in the community that no one knows about.”
“We would love to have Megan’s Law or Sarah’s law here, because something has to give — there has to be checks and balances of course. What we would do is ask those who are managing the offenders to show some common sense because there are people here who have to face the daily consequences of offences and that’s a parent’s worst nightmare.”
He said RASO’s plan was to get groups like the south Belfast one set up across the city in an attempt to merge knowledge and act as one in dealing with the problem of sex offenders reoffending within the community.
One of the protesters told the Community Telegraph NIACRO had come to them to offer a meeting, however NIACRO stated they did not want to comment on the situation until after the meeting had been held.
Michelle Bostock, who works for the UUP, said: “This is part of an ongoing campaign to highlight this issue.
“I live in Donegal Pass, and I’m really concerned that these people are being released back into our community. They are close to schools, to the park and to the Golden Mile where young people are.
“We feel as though our community has become a dumping ground for sex offenders, and once they are released from the hostel they come back.
“The cheek of some people saying they are being released back into ‘their’ community, but they’re not, they’re being released back into our community, and we are the ones who have to deal with the fallout when it all goes wrong, and it doesn’t take long for it to happen.”