January 16, 2013

Phillipsburg abolishes pedophile-free zone

1-16-2013 Pennsylvania:

Phillipsburg Town Council tonight eliminated a law that restricted where sex offenders could live.

Phillipsburg enacted the pedophile-free zone amid a flurry of municipalities approving similar laws that often made almost entire communities inaccessible to sex offenders.

But Phillipsburg wasn’t enforcing the law because state courts found it unconstitutional, Mayor Harry Wyant Jr. said after the council voted unanimously to abolish it.

“Everyone felt we should have the control to do that, but we don’t,” Wyant said tonight.

Phillipsburg’s law barred convicted sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school or 2,500 feet of parks, playgrounds and recreation centers.

But about a week after it passed in 2005, a similar law was challenged in Cape May County. A former teacher who spent a year in prison for having sex with a 16-year-old female student wanted to move with his wife and kids to Lower Township and claimed a pedophile-free zone put 90 percent of the township off-limits to him.

A state judge ultimately tossed out Lower Township’s ban.

At least 10 communities in Warren and Hunterdon counties were among at least 80 in New Jersey with pedophile-free zones on the books as of 2007. But many of them said after the Cape May County ruling that the zones wouldn’t be enforced.

More recently, the state legislature took up a bill that would make smaller pedophile-free zones.

At least 12 Pennsylvania communities including Upper Mount Bethel Township adopted pedophile-free zones, but police rarely report that they’re being enforced.

Easton Councilman Ken Brown abandoned a 2008 proposal that would have made most of the city off limits to sex offenders. He said at the time that he wanted to protect children but realized the law couldn’t punish someone legitimately trying to re-enter society. ..Source.. by Douglas B. Brill | The Express-Times

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