Only On 6: Sex Offender, Next Room Over

Only On 6: Sex Offender, Next Room Over

In this Only On 6 report, Newschannel 6 uncovered an eye-opening piece of information: sex offenders can legally register their permanent home address as a hotel or motel.

They must still register with the Wichita Falls Sex Offender Registration Department, and that address goes on the Department of Public Safety website. This is a public site, anyone can access, to look up sex offenders by name, zip code, etc.

If they register with a hotel as their home address, it even tells you the room number in which they are staying.

However, hotel management legally does not have to let you know a sex offender is staying there. "That's a company decision, but it is not the manager's requirement to notify any people checking in about sex offenders that reside on their property," said Detective Beth Ahring with the Sex Offender Registration.

Det. Ahring said it is the responsibility of individual's to check the DPS website whenever they are concerned about the presence of a sex offender, whether it is before they book at a hotel, move into a new neighborhood, or visit anywhere unfamiliar.

"I think if you stay at any public facility, you should always keep a close eye on your kids and your things when you're staying in an area that you're not familiar with," said Det. Ahring. "But I don't think (sex offenders staying in hotels) probably puts any more risk than going to a friends house in a neighborhood where one could be living as well."

Newschannel 6 went through each of the 164 sex offenders currently registered in Wichita Falls. Of those, ten have their home address listed as a hotel or motel in the city. Seven of those ten sex offenders are staying at the Wayfarer Motel on Central Freeway. The other three are split between the Econo Inn on Burkburnett Rd., the Falls Motel on Old Iowa Park Rd. and the Travel Lodge on Wolcott Ln.

Neighbors we spoke to at the Travel Lodge and Wayfarer had no idea that the person living next to them was a sex offender. "I'm pretty irritated I wasn't aware, it's not something I would ever condone," said one neighbor. "I don't think housing a sex offender is something that's, anything moral at all."

However, a longtime Wichita Falls hotel manager, who wished to remain anonymous, said he has never had a problem with a sex offender who rented a room. In fact, he said he would rather rent to them then other convicted criminals. He has been in the business for nearly twenty years and owns five hotels/motels in Wichita Falls.

Christina Myers