A database that took a Supreme Court ruling to be released to the public has revealed some unsettling numbers and a new label for Hamilton: home to the highest per capita concentration of sex offenders in southern Ontario.
But city councillors say that those offenders are coming from elsewhere, and the shuttering of a controversial downtown halfway house will change the alarming label.
The numbers, given to Global News after the Supreme Court of Canada ordered its release after a six-year legal battle, paints a less than favourable picture of the downtown core.
Roughly 200 sex offenders live in the lower city, 51 of whom live in the L8R postal code, an area between the QEW and Wellington, north of King Street, with a population of some 10,500.
Four of the five postal codes that make up the lower city; L8R, L8L, L8N and L8M; have a high density of sex offenders at a rate of more than 200 per 100,000 people.
"Nobody wants a registered sex offender in their neighbourhood," said Ward 2 Coun. Jason Farr, whose ward is in the spotlight of the report. "Having 200 is going to obviously lead to a greater conversation."
The Global report pointed specifically to the area along York Blvd. as "southern Ontario's densest concentration of sex offenders."
The area is home to a Canada Correctional Service (CSC) run halfway house, the Hamilton Community Corrections Centre, at 94 York Blvd.
"Twenty-four beds and a portion of those beds, quite obviously and a good portion maybe in some cases throughout time, with sex offenders," Farr said.
CSC said it would "inapproriate" to comment on the data from the data of sex offenders.
Andrew Morrison, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, confirmed the numbers in the Global News report, adding the registry data is from 2008.
You get the good with the bad
A different halfway house, operated by the St. Leonard's Society of Canada, was the subject of a three-year debate with City Hall over renovation plans and green-lighted last October. Arguing against the plans, Ward 8 Coun. Terry Whitehead previously said Hamilton is a "dumping ground" for newly released inmates and social services.
On Thursday, he softened his tone.
"That's the good and bad," said Whitehead. "The good thing is we've got state of the art hospitals here in Hamilton.
"The bad is that we take everything else that comes with it."
The database shows the numbers of registered sex offenders per capita in a forward sortation area (FSA), or grouping of postal codes that begin with the same three characters.
Though an FSA spanning huge areas of northern Ontario has the highest rate of sex offenders per capita in the province, the numbers reveal that a cluster of neighbourhoods spanning central and west Hamilton may have the highest concentration.
Low income neighbourhoods targeted
The numbers, according to reporter Patrick Cain’s analysis, suggest that sex offenders overwhelmingly settle in low-income areas.
According to data compiled by the Hamilton Community Foundation, in 2009, between one third and one half of the FSA’s 10,500 or so residents lived below the low-income cutoff.
Both Whitehead and Farr point to more than just income as to why Hamilton has a high density of sex offenders inside its border.
"When you take a look at the extent of the services we have between the John Howard Society, you take a look at the location of the halfway house for all these years, you take a look at the services and followup services… You look at the low cost of housing relative to others in the GTA. Hamilton becomes a cheaper alternative with good services," Whitehead said.
Neither John Howard Society or Hamilton Police returned phone calls on the the subject Thursday.