Cape Cod, South Shore Residents Concerned About Traveling Bus Owned by Sex Offender
A minibus that belongs to a registered sex offender, and is painted with pastel colors and the words “God Bus” on the back, has residents in parts of Cape Cod and the South Shore on edge, with some going as far as trying to track the vehicle owner’s every move.
The bus, owned by John J. Stangl, a registered level three sex offender who is listed as “homeless” in Hyannis, has been spotted in Kingston, Plymouth, and Yarmouth during the course of the week. The white vehicle is plastered with bumper stickers, and patterned curtains cover the windows. The words “God Bus” can be seen in large letters on the bus’ rear door exit.
But it wasn’t until officers in Yarmouth posted an image of the bus on November 6, as a warning for people to “be vigilant” in the event that a crime is committed, that interest in Stangl’s whereabouts escalated in the surrounding communities. The picture and accompanying information about Stangl and his presence in Yarmouth was shared more than 500 times.
“The police role in cases like this is powerful and basic—it’s to educate the public. We have a duty to let the public know who the offenders are,” said Yarmouth Deputy Police Chief Steven Xiarhos, adding that he’s currently following all of the rules and laws regarding registering as a sex offender.
Stangl is not wanted by police and is not breaking any laws by traveling around and sleeping in his custom-painted bus.
The state’s Sex Offender Registry Board determines a person’s status as a sex offender, not local police departments. A level-three sex offender status is the highest designation. The likelihood that a level three offender will commit another crime is also described as “high,” and the “degree of dangerousness posed to the public is such that a substantial public safety interest is served by active dissemination” of information on the subject, according to the board.
Xiarhos said he decided to post the photo of the bus in a parking lot because the department is “proactive” in situations like this, and they rely on traditional methods to get information out to constituents, as well as social media. “Because we are who we are, we are very proactive in the use of social media and social policing” he said. “His home is the bus. I decided to put the picture out.”
Xiarhos said after the photo circulated, Stangl decided to uproot and relocate his van somewhere else, possibly fearing that someone would harass him.
“He came back in, he told us that he re-registered in Barnstable. You can be homeless, but you have to let them know you are homeless in their town,” he said. “We were just educating the public. Our legal right and duty is to let the public know…but this man has done everything he is supposed to do, and he’s not wanted by the police.”
Xiarhos said people have been asking frequent questions about how Stangl can be allowed to sleep in his vehicle and drive around freely. He said the situation is an example of how the department has both a duty to protect people in the community, as well as protect Stangl’s rights.
“This man is dangerous, it’s very clear he is dangerous, according to [the Sex Offender Registry Board]. That is their way of telling the public that. But we also have to defend his rights,” he said. “We did take a unique step by putting up a picture of his home—which in a way is a mobile home—and now the public is reacting.”
A source that asked to remain anonymous told Boston that they, and several others, contacted Kingston police when the bus was spotted in town recently. When contacted, however, a spokesperson who handles sex offender cases in Kingston said they haven’t received any complaints.
That same source said that on Tuesday, Stangl was parked in Plymouth, and has been seen in the South Shore town for the last two days.
Plymouth Police Captain John Rogers said the department has received calls about Stangl’s presence, but, like Xiarhos, reiterated that he’s not breaking the law, and is not wanted by police.
Rogers said there have been instances where officers asked Stangl to move his car because of a “parking issue,” but nothing more. “We have gotten a few calls. But there’s not a lot we can do about it,” he said. “Because of the social media attached to this, any place he goes, we get a call about him. From a police perspective, he’s legally registered, and if he commits a crime we’ll investigate. But it’s the bus that’s the real draw on this [attention].”
Stangl has been arrested multiple times in the past for failing to register.