CONNIE SWINNEY • STAFF WRITER
KINGSLAND — Residents of a Kingsland neighborhood say they are organizing efforts to protect children as they report an influx of registered sex offenders moving into the unincorporated community.
The latest concern involves 31-year-old Arthur Rico Hernandez, who was required by law to register his residence in the 700 block of Anson Street with the Llano County Sheriff’s Office.
In January, deputies distributed flyers to nearby residents to inform them of their new neighbor.
“My concern is these kids standing out here on the bus stop, and he’s got a bus stop right down the street from where he lives,” said Dave Oxford, a father and grandfather who received one of the flyers. “Every kid on this block has a picture of this guy. If we have little kids running around in fear, that’s wrong.”
Melanie Graninger lives four blocks away.
She added, “When I first moved here, there was one other house on my road, and now it’s nothing but druggies and sex offenders. It went downhill fast.”
According to Hays County court documents, in December 2007, a then-21-year-old Hernandez was convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a child, a 15-year-old girl.
The terms of Hernandez’ parole require him to register as a sex offender for life. He is also identified as “high risk,” according to the Texas Department of Public Safety’s sex offender registry site.
He currently resides with family on Anson Street just off Skyline Drive.
“I see people walking and looking because I’m pretty sure they got the postcard in the mail,” Hernandez said. “They’re kind of shocked. I’m not a strange person. I’m just trying to start over with my life.”
Hernandez joined approximately 16 registered sex offenders in the Skyline subdivision, according to state records.
“We’re going to be doing periodic checks on Mr. Hernandez to make sure he’s in compliance with his sex offender registration in Llano County,” Llano County Chief Deputy John Neff said. “We’ve got well over 60 to 65 registered sex offenders in the unincorporated parts of Llano County.
“We’ve got a wider area and a larger population in the unincorporated area,” he added. “Kingsland is such a large and highly populated area, and it’s unincorporated relative to the rest of the county.”
Unlike counties, municipalities such as Burnet, Marble Falls, and Granite Shoals have enacted codes that limit how close registered sex offenders can live near schools, parks, playgrounds, and other places where children congregate.
The laws have created overlapping boundaries that prove challenging for registered sex offenders in finding housing within the city limits.
Since the 1990s, Kingsland residents have voted on and failed to pass at least two efforts to incorporate, lacking the body to enact such laws.
“Granted, nobody wants to pay more taxes, but if that’s what it takes to protect our neighborhoods, then maybe that’s something we should consider,” Oxford said. “Maybe it’s time we change for our children’s sake. What’s better for us: the tax loss (of becoming a city) or increased number of pedophiles?”
To monitor their whereabouts, LCSO collects data such as proof of address, vehicles, email addresses, and social media activity from the registrants.
“There are no (county) laws about where they live just so long as they register with us and report to us,” Neff said of check-ins, which can be monthly, quarterly, or annually. “Most of them comply, but it’s not uncommon for us to issue warrants for non-compliance for the sex offender registration laws.”
Law enforcement relies on residents to offer information if they believe laws have been broken but dissuades them from creating a potentially volatile situation.
“It would be ill-advised for someone to take the law into their own hands and retaliate against somebody unlawfully,” Neff said. “If, for some reason, (the neighbors) don’t think (the registered sex offender is) in compliance, then they should report that to the Llano County Sheriff’s Office.”
Hernandez said he wants to find a job and raise his two stepsons — ages 10 and 12 — with his wife, Elena DeLeon.
“My wife sticks by my side. She don’t judge me,” he said. “My family don’t judge me. They know what kind of person I am to children. I would never hurt a child, nothing like that.”
He said he has faced such scrutiny in the past.
“When I was staying in San Marcos with my wife over there, we had to move out of apartments over there because the manager was saying a lot of people was coming up to her (about my situation). About 10 people came to the office,” Hernandez said.
He added he connects his current situation to his past actions.
“I was in a position I should have never put myself in,” he said. “Right now, it’s like I’m under the hole, trying to dig myself out.”
He offered reassurances to his neighbors.
“Just tell the neighbors not to be concerned. I’m a very nice guy. I know they’re shocked,” Hernandez said. “I know they’re upset because they have children, but I’m not the kind of guy that will get down like that. … I’m not out here to hurt anyone.”
Hernandez’ words provided little solace for nearby residents.
“Take your kids to the bus stop,” Graninger advised others. “Don’t let them ride their bikes by themselves. Don’t let them out of your sight.”