Background checks considered after Rec Center incident

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    Administrators at the University Recreation Center are re-evaluating their policy on community membership after a 35-year-old accused pedophile was detained at the facility by TCU Police for violating his bond, a TCU Police detective said.Ruben Edwards Jr. was detained on Aug. 8 after a complaint from a Rec Center staff member about his suspicious activity in the pool area, said TCU Police detective Sgt. Kelly Ham.

    The staff member was also suspicious of Edwards because of an ankle monitor he was wearing, said Rec Center director Steve Kintigh. The monitor most likely went unnoticed by staff members because it was not visible from behind the front desk, he said.

    His bond conditions prohibited him from being within 100 feet of children, Ham said.

    During the fall and spring semesters, children under 16 are only allowed in the facility from 6 p.m. on Friday until the facility closes on Sunday.

    The Rec Center pool is occupied almost exclusively by children during the summer when all operating hours are family hours. In addition to members’ children, there are also children from various on-campus summer programs, Kintigh said.

    “If we had seen an ankle bracelet we might have said, ‘Maybe we need to take a look at this,'” Kintigh said.

    Edwards got access to the facilities by buying a monthly community membership, said Mary Ellen Milam, associate director at the Rec Center.

    “We had a complaint,” TCU Police detective Vicki Lawson said, “and we did some investigating and he was issued a bench warrant immediately.”

    Edwards was on bond after being arrested on Aug. 1, 2005 for exposing himself to a young female on June 18, 2005, Lawson said.

    He will go to trial in the 1st Criminal District Court, most likely during the third week in September, said Page Simpson, a prosecutor in the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office.

    He is now being held without bond at the Tarrant County Jail, according to jail documents.

    The Rec Center staff is “certainly concerned about the incident,” Kintigh said, and is currently looking into policy changes to prevent similar incidents.

    “As a rule we don’t require a picture ID,” Kintigh said, “and that is something we’re going to look at.”

    He said background checks are also being considered.

    Background checks are cost prohibitive , Kintigh said, and might be considered an invasion of privacy by some members. He said such measures are also rather unprecedented in a university setting and going back to perform checks on current members would be burdensome.

    The 1996 Megan’s Law requires all states to provide a publicly accessible online database with names and photos of convicted sex offenders. However, Edwards was not in the database because he does not have a reported conviction for a sex crime yet, Simpson said.

    All university staff members and volunteers who have contact with TCU students are subject to background checks, said Jacqulyn Curry, employment coordinator in the Human Resources department.

    Those background checks are paid for by Human Resources and department policy prohibits performing those checks on nonemployees and requires consent from employees before the check is performed.

    The University of Texas at Arlington and Southern Methodist University also sell community memberships to their recreation centers. Like TCU, UTA does not require a photo ID, said Allyson Weitz, an associate director at UTA. However, SMU does require a photo ID , said SMU director Judith Banes. Neither facility runs background checks on their members.

    Community memberships are available to anyone 18 years or older whether or not they have an affiliation with the university. As of a May 15 report, there were 103 members enrolled at the $600 yearly rate and 114 members on the $65 month-to-month plan, Milam said.

    Edwards had his monthly membership for less than a week before the incident, Kintigh said, and his membership was immediately canceled after the Aug. 8 incident.

    TCU Police turned Edwards over to the Tarrant County Fugitive Squadron who took him to the Tarrant County Jail where he is currently being held without bail.

    Edwards was issued a criminal trespass warning by TCU Police on Aug. 8 and Lawson said he will not be allowed back on the campus.