December 24, 2011

Kent turns down expanding rules for sex offenders: Instead, City Council creates task force to probe community education about the issue

12-24-2011 Ohio:

Kent City Council established a task force to examine community education about sexual predators Wednesday after rejecting an ordinance to impose living restrictions on sex offenders.

The task force, proposed by Councilman Garrett Ferrara, will create dialogue between the Kent’s Board of Education, Safety Department and city administration to explore the effectiveness of current public education about sex offenders and if more can be done.

“I expect to hear positive results on what is being done already, but you have to send a message to people that it’s a concern and it’s a sensitive issue,” Ferrara said, adding that it will help raise awareness of the issue even current education of predators is found to be effective.

The proposed ordinance council considered, modeled after similar municipal ordinances across the country and offered by Kent Planning Commission member Anthony Catalano, suggested expanding on the state’s restrictions on where sex offenders can live.

Ohio law restricts sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school or daycare center. Catalano suggested increasing that to 2,500 feet and expanding it to include parks, playgrounds and other areas where children gather under council’s discretion.

Kent Police Chief Michelle Lee and Law Director Jim Silver said the ordinance could create more problems than solutions.

Silver said expanding living restrictions up to 2,500 would not leave offenders many, if any, options, and could be considered unconstitutional housing discrimination.

“This type of ordinance could be subject to challenge in a lawsuit and have been challenged across the state and in other state,” he said.

Lee said her research found that similar ordinances can create “a false sense of security” and “studies don’t look good as far as its effectiveness.”

“I’m all for the protection of children and doing what we can do, I just don’t know if this is going to be what it takes,” she said, adding that enforcement would be difficult.

Lee also said that in most cases child sex offenders are known to the victims, with very few instances involving strangers.

Ferrara said the issue doesn’t seem like one that can simply be cured with legislation.

“It appears that education and awareness of the issue is the best defense,” he said. ..Source.. by Kyle McDonald

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