March 7, 2014

Council drops proposal to ban sex offenders in Wallingford parks

3-7-2014 Connecticut:

Regulations preventing sex offenders from entering parks won’t be pursued by the Town Council, the ordinance committee determined Thursday night.

Town Councilor Craig Fishbein, chairman of the committee, said the opinion of the Law Department was sought after the committee spoke on the issue in past meetings. Fishbein said Corporation Counsel Janis Small issued memos to the committee — made up by the Town Council — on Feb. 26 and Feb. 28 with information on how other municipalities and states handled similar bans. Other municipalities in Connecticut have regulations preventing sex offenders from entering parks, but according to Small, they’ve never been enforced, Fishbein said.

The Feb. 28 memo was interesting, Fishbein said, because it stated that Small spoke to victims’ advocacy groups “who are adverse to municipalities doing things like this.”

Advocacy groups feel such regulations create a false sense of security, Fishbein said. Small was not available to attend the meeting.

Town resident Chrissy Rutigliano first brought up the idea of banning sex offenders from parks. Rutigliano said she contacted the council when she saw there was no ordinance regulating the activity of sex offenders.

“This isn’t reinventing the wheel,” she said. “Other towns have these ordinances.”

Rutigliano suggested that the council consider signs that designate child safety zones where sex offenders aren’t allowed.

That would create a liability, Fishbein said, because the town would be guaranteeing safety, but police can’t watch over the parks all the time. Town Councilor John Sullivan has also said such signs would scare people away from parks.

Just as there are drug-free zones near schools, the town should consider child safety zones, Rutigliano responded.

“It’s very alarming that we can have sex offenders living within 100 feet of a school,” she said.

The state Sex Offender Registry lists 38 sex offenders in Wallingford.

Drug-free zones are state law, Town Council Chairman Vincent Cervoni said. These laws are immediately enforceable, while local ordinance is bound by a “silly warning” system, he said. Local ordinance requires a warning provision, he said, so a sex offender would have to be warned first for violating regulations before an infraction is issued. The infraction would then be referred to Meriden Superior Court.

For more responsive laws, Cervoni suggested Rutigliano “get a movement afoot at the state level.”

“That’s where you’re going to get a law passed,” he said. A state law could dictate that through probation all sex offenders are disallowed from entering a child safety zone, Cervoni said. Probation can currently prevent sex offenders from being in certain public locations.

A state law would be “immediately enforceable without the silliness we’re forced to deal with locally,” Cervoni told Rutigliano.

Asked after the meeting if she would consider pushing for a stricter state law, Rutigliano said, “it’s something I have to consider.”

In other business Thursday, the Town Council decided to table discussion of running bamboo regulations due to the potential passage of stricter regulations at the state level. The committee also voted against raising fines for those who don’t clear their sidewalk of snow or ice within 18 hours. A proposal would have raised the fine from $25 to $50, but a majority of councilors were opposed. Discussion on whether fines should be raised for those who place snow on road that have been cleared was tabled until a future meeting. Current fines are $50. ..Source.. by Andrew Ragali

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