October 19, 2013

Councilman Soules plans to weed out sex offenders from city parks

10-19-2013 Texas:

SAN ANTONIO -- Councilman Carlton Soules has a plan to keep out roughly 3,000 people from local city parks -- and those individual's names are already known.

“Removing the ability for a registered sex offender to be in the parks takes away the temptation and takes away some of the danger,” Soules said.

Soules believes his plan is the next logical step in keeping children safe from harm.

The councilman points out that smaller communities, like Boerne and Windcrest, have similar child-safe zones.

“I don’t know where the sex offenders are going to go. I know where I don’t want them — that’s with children and women jogging these trails,” Soules explained.

Soules is describing women like Christine Love, who walks a park trail four times a week.

“I see people back here with kids on bikes and they’re different ages. And they get separated from parents sometimes. I would see where that would make sense in that case,” Love said.

“I think that’s a false sense of security,” Mary Sue Molnar with Texas Voices said. Her statewide non-profit group promotes “rational” and “balanced” laws when it comes to the criminal justice system.

As an advocate for non-violent offenders, Molnar said the city, so far, hasn't provided any research proving San Antonio’s parks are ridden with crime caused by registered sex offenders.

“We have people on the sex-offender registry for doing nothing more than spending the night with a girl they thought was 16 or making a one-time mistake 20-years-ago. These people have families and have children. They use the city parks just like any family does," Molnar said.

Molnar's group is calling for more-balanced laws, not overkill, when it comes to registered sex offenders. Many of those on the fated list are low-risk offenders, but Soules’ ordinance doesn’t see a difference.

The I-Team researched the registry and found that, out of the city’s nearly 3,000 registered sex offenders, 255 live in one zip code: 78207. And the address most listed is Haven for Hope.

Research shows San Antonio has a population of registered sex offenders that is nearly double the national average.

“I think what we’re doing is preventative,” Soules said.

Some offenders could get to play in parks — Soules’ plan calls for those convicted as minors, or those who already live near parks, would be grandfathered in.

Others seeking to enter a park would have to go before a municipal-court judge for an exemption.

Opponents to Soules' plan say gathering evidence for a court appearance is something most offenders won’t do.

“Most people on the registry are like anyone else. They go for specific reasons, not to commit an offense,” Molnar said.

The proposed legislation could go before council in November. ..Source.. by Joe Conger

No comments: