Kitsap County Sheriff’s Deputies were dispatched to the Viking Way LRA (Less Restrictive Alternative housing) in Poulsbo on May 7, after a concerned neighbor called to report suspicious activity coming from the group home for level 3 sex offenders. An investigation revealed that it was not an offender behaving suspiciously, but actually the administrator in charge of housing the offenders that had prompted the call.
According to Starr Trujillo, as she was waiting to pick up her daughter from the bus stop adjacent to the property, she watched as an individual at the residence appeared to begin taking photos of the property before turning to take photos of the bus, herself and her daughter.
“I didn’t know who this guy was,” Trujillo said. “So I’m screaming to my daughter as she’s getting off the bus, ‘Get in the house!’”
Immediately, Trujillo said she reached out to Washington State for Public Safety Executive Director Pamela Benson, who instructed her to call the police.
According to Deputy Scott Wilson, a public information officer for the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, KCSO received the call from Trujillo around 4:20 p.m. but it wasn’t until more than an hour later that a deputy arrived at the scene, after a second dispatch had been sent out at 5:32 p.m.
Initially, Wilson said numerous units picked up the call but deputies prioritizing their calls likely played a role in the delayed response time.
“[Deputies] are constantly in a state of prioritizing and re-prioritizing, but since this was nothing more than a suspicious incident with a person on scene, we weren’t going to go racing there with lights and sirens because that’s not in our policy to do that,” Wilson said. “It is not unusual to try to handle details by phone while enroute so you can get a bigger picture.”
When deputies arrived, they confirmed that an individual at the residence had indeed been taking photos but the person in question was not a resident but rather Alan Frey, the administrator for Westsound Support Services LLC, the group operating the LRA under contract with the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services.
“She was upset to see somebody out there taking pictures,” Wilson said. “Investigation revealed that this was Alan [Frey], who is part of the outfit that runs that establishment. He was the one taking pictures and he was waving at Starr.”
According to Wilson, Frey’s wave to Trujillo was an attempt “to show ‘Hey, I’m not an unfriendly person.’ And that he was not one of the offenders.”
In taking the photos, Wilson said Frey had been trying to document the sight distance from the bus stop to the LRA residence. On May 23, the operators of the LRA will have an opportunity to appeal a recent ruling by the Kitsap County Department of Community Development which prohibits the operation of such facilities within residential settings. Under the current interim zoning regulations, the facility was ordered to relocate its residents or face additional enforcement action by the county.
“It was strictly, in his opinion, a documentation issue,” Wilson said. “He’s the program manager that houses the level 3 offenders, he’s the one that’s disputing the county ordinance and he was documenting the layout distance from the house to the bus stop.”
A growing concern
Trujillo also explained that the confusion that day wasn’t the first time she has noticed suspicious behavior coming from the residence. According to the mother of three, on multiple occasions she has observed individuals at the residence watching from a distance as the local school bus drops off and picks up young students.
After noticing the men watching, Trujillo said she began taking photos of the individuals and alerted Chris Ervin, a community corrections officer with the Washington State Department of Corrections which oversees the LRA. Ervin said he is continuing to investigate Trujillo’s claims.
“I have received some calls from concerned community members and I have investigated them accordingly,” Ervin said. “My understanding is that Mr. Frey was also investigating because I have made him aware of what’s been reported.”
“When I get reports of things going on at the property, I share them with Mr. Frey because he is also part of the transition team, so he is also investigating, we investigate as a team,” he added.
Jeremy Barclay, a spokesperson with the Department of Corrections stated that Frey had not given any prior notification to DOC personnel that he would be taking any photos that day. Likewise, Trujillo stated that neighbors of the LRA weren’t given any notification either.
“We can’t speak for him or his actions, we don’t have a contract with him and he’s not within our sphere of control,” Barclay said of Frey. “With regard to whether Alan Frey should or should not be doing any kind of public notification, I’ll leave that up to him and his attorney. But certainly the Department of Corrections does believe in stakeholder engagement, informing the public and keeping them aware of anything as it pertains to their public safety.”
In an email, Frey stated that he only took a single photograph, in which there were no children within the frame.
In offering his side of the story, Frey stated that he had been “taking a picture to establish a sight line between an area on the property and the street. We take seriously any concerns we receive from neighbors and community members and work hard to address these in as timely a manner as possible. The people we have been in contact with were aware that we were looking into the issue and would be on-site to review their specific concern.”
Of the incident, Benson said she found the lack of notification to be very concerning.
“When a mother with three small children finds out she has unknowingly moved into a rental across the street from four [sexually violent predators] it is frightening enough. When she and her child are watched while waiting for the school bus, multiple times, by multiple men standing in the yard of the SVP residence, the fear factor increases 100 fold. When a mother observes a man taking photos of her and her child it is more than frightening, it is deeply disturbing.”
“At the very least they should have notified WSPS and the mother that they would be doing so,” Benson added.
This story originally appeared in the Kitsap Daily News, a sibling paper to the Herald.