Civic association rallies against sex offenders, crime at motor inn
Island Park resident Michelle Baratta held up a blue and red sign that read, “Close the Long Beach Motor Inn,” while others toted placards reading, “Sex Offenders & Criminals Out.” For Baratta and the other protesters gathered outside the Motor Inn on May 22, the effort to attract attention to their cause was working.
On a busy Saturday morning on Austin Boulevard, cars whizzed by the crowded sidewalk, some honking in support, others slowing down to see what the fuss was about. Tenants of the motel milled about near the lobby, not sure what to make of the demonstration — suburban mothers with baby carriages and strollers, and fathers in T-shirts and jeans, protesting what has become a sore spot in the community.
“I’m concerned for my children,” said Baratta, who had her two young kids with her. “This motel is in walking distance of the middle school, of a nursery school and of local parks. I worry about my kids all the time, mainly because of this place.”
Baratta was one of 60 or so residents who turned out for the rally, organized by the Island Park Civic Association. The motel, at 3915 Austin Blvd., is home, they claim, to sex offenders and other criminals — not far from the Lincoln Orens Middle School and a children’s park, and 650 feet from the Little Village Nursery School on Broadway. For two years the civic association has been trying to move lawmakers to action and spur the motel’s owner to address the issue.
“I think this protest is bringing a lot of attention to the issue and will get more people involved,” said association Vice President Laura Hassett. “I feel, for our first protest, that the turnout was great, and we intend to do it throughout the summer months. Our goal is to bring awareness and to get people to come out.”
The issue of sex offenders at the motel took on added urgency in January with the arrest of Alphonso Barnes, who was charged with raping and violently beating a woman in Long Beach. Barnes had been staying at the motel, and although he was not a registered sex offender, he had previously been arrested for manslaughter, rape, burglary and robbery.
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