December 10, 2014

Pasco commissioner seeks new housing restrictions for sex offenders

12-10-2014 Florida:

WESLEY CHAPEL — Pasco Commissioner Mike Moore wants to make it more difficult for registered sex offenders to live in Pasco County.

Moore announced Monday he would seek a local ordinance prohibiting convicted sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of schools, school bus stops, playgrounds, day care centers, libraries, nursing homes or assisted living facilities. State law now sets that distance at 1,000 feet and applies it only to schools, playgrounds and day care centers.

If approved by the full commission, the ordinance would restrict newly released offenders, but it would exclude the 871 registered sexual offenders now residing in the county.

"This is not going to be a safe haven for sexual offenders,'' Moore said.

His proposal is modeled after an ordinance in Miami-Dade County that is subject to a federal court challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union. Moore's proposal also comes less than two weeks after the Wall Street Journal reported that some communities are retreating from these housing buffers because they are ineffective or make it more difficult for authorities to track offenders. Palm Beach County, for instance, relaxed its housing restrictions in July after being sued by a registered sexual offender who said the ordinance left him homeless.

"We can't be scared of lawsuits when we propose an ordinance,'' Moore said.

He acknowledged that including school bus stops eliminates substantial housing options for the offenders. The Pasco County School District has 4,400 locations for its bus stops, most of which are at least 2 miles from one of 76 school campuses.

Moore announced his plan at the Pasco Sheriff's Office substation in the Shops at Wiregrass mall. He was joined by Sheriff Chris Nocco and two detectives from the sheriff's sex offender unit.

"There's people that will question this,'' Nocco said, "but as a society we have to decide what's more important — our children or sex offenders and sexual predators?''

Moore said he would propose the ordinance during the commission's Dec. 16 meeting and hoped a vote could be scheduled in January. In Pasco County, the city of New Port Richey has a 2,500-foot buffer for sex offenders, and the city of San Antonio uses 1,500 feet. ..Source.. by CT Bowen

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