Monday, June 2, 2008

IL - Prosecution rests in R. Kelly trial

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06/02/2008

CHICAGO (UPI) -- Prosecutors in R. Kelly's child pornography trial in Chicago rested their case Monday but not before the defense tried to impugn the motive of a key witness.

The R&B singer is charged with videotaping himself having sex with an underage girl some time between 1998 and 2000. Kelly's attorneys maintain the female on the tape isn't who prosecutors say she is and the man having sex with her isn't Kelly.

But Lisa Van Allen, 27, testified about three sexual encounters she allegedly had with Kelly and the alleged victim, and also identified Kelly and the girl in the video, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Defense attorney Sam Adam Sr. brought out the fact that Allen waited years before coming forward, and that her fiance and a former boyfriend were convicted of federal fraud charges.

"What, do you have some thing where guys have to have some federal fraud charge before you are interested in them?" Adam asked.

Kelly's lawyers are expected to start presenting their case Wednesday, a day after Chicago Sun-Times music critic Jim DeRogatis is to be questioned by the defense.

DeRogatis is the person who gave police the sex tape at the core of the case, the Tribune said.


MI - Senate takes up law to require computer techs to report child porn

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My question is, why are computer technicians snooping around on someones machine when they were told to simply fix a hard-drive or computer problems? So yeah, I think it's an invasion of privacy, but, if it's obvious there is child porn on the machine, then yeah, I think they should report it. I hope that when someone does report this, that they also search the persons computer who was suppose to be repairing a machine, they usually grab personal files from clients machines, it's been documented in various articles and videos I've seen on the web.

06/02/2008

LANSING -- Some call it a tool to catch people in possession of child pornography. Others call it an invasion of privacy.

The state Senate Judiciary Committee will hear testimony Tuesday on a bill that would require computer technicians to report any child pornography they find on a client's computer.

The hearing on the bill, introduced by Sen. Wayne Kuipers (Email), R-Holland, will include testimony from Dan Tomaszewski, of Georgetown Township-based Computer House Calls, and local law enforcement.

Tomaszewski brought the issue to Kuipers last year after his company found child pornography while repairing the computer of Grand Rapids resident Michael Robert Brown, 52. Although his company reported it to law enforcement, there was no law requiring it to do so.

"The most important thing is, right now, we are not required to report any cases of child pornography," Tomaszewski said. He noted current laws do offer a computer technician legal protection should he or she tell authorities about child pornography found on a client's computer.

While the proposed law would allow computer technicians to report child pornography they see in the course of working on a computer, they would not be allowed to search a computer specifically for the images, Tomaszewski said.

"We do respect the customer's privacy," he said. "We do not go looking for it, but if we discover it in the course of our job, we turn it in."

Computer House Calls had two instances last year where technicians found child pornography on a computer and turned it in to authorities, he said.

Kuipers said this law would help police weed out people in possession of child pornography.

"They have difficulty sometimes finding this information and finding the people who are responsible for trafficking (child pornography)," he said. "We want to give them some additional tools."

Laws stating that computer technicians must report child pornography they see while working have been passed in at least five states -- Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina and South Dakota, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

South Carolina's law drew criticism in 2001 from a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, who said it was an invasion of privacy.

Michigan's bill is drawing some criticism. Some comments label the bill "totalitarian" and "invasive."

Kuipers said he hasn't heard of any formal opposition to the bill so far.

"My guess is that if there is opposition, they'll come forward tomorrow," he said.


KS - Hospital forced to return papers to predator unit patient

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06/02/2008

TOPEKA (AP) -- A district court judge has taken Larned State Hospital to task for how it has treated a patient in its sexual predator unit who has complained about conditions there.

The patient, Mark Brull, contends he is being harassed by hospital staff. The state Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, which operates the hospital and its sexual predator unit, denies the allegation.

Sex offenders who have finished their prison sentences can be committed to the Larned unit indefinitely for treatment through a jury trial. Brull has lived there eight years, having spent three years in prison for two sex crimes involving children.

Brull sued the SRS in Shawnee County in December 2001, alleging the hospital violated laws regulating treatment of confined mental patients, which it denies. His case is scheduled to go to trial in September.

His complaints and others about the hospital also led to an investigation last year by the state Department of Health and Environment.

Last month, Shawnee County District Judge Frank Yeomans ordered SRS to return documents that hospital staff had seized from Brull's room during an inspection. Brull had contacted his lawyer during the search and got it halted, but his papers were boxed up and sent to an SRS attorney in Topeka.

"They're constantly harassing me each and every day," Brull told The Wichita Eagle, referring to hospital staff.

SRS spokeswoman Michelle Ponce said the hospital staff hasn't targeted Brull or any other patient.

"We do not punish them," she said. She said the unit's purpose is to keep dangerous mental patients off the streets and try to cure them.

It was the second time Yeomans had intervened after Brull complained about his treatment by hospital staff.

Last year, the judge concluded that hospital officials had improperly restricted Brull's privileges to discourage him from filing complaints.

Yeomans ordered the privileges restored, and Brull was moved out of the program's highest-security wing. But in a recent court filing, Brull said he's been disciplined since then.

But Ponce said Brull's complaints about Larned had nothing to do with the recent actions taken by unit staff.

"I do not believe he is being retaliated against for any complaint he has issued," she said.

Ponce said Brull's room was searched and his documents seized because hospital staff believed he tried to contact minors through a Web site on which he sought pen pals. She noted that he's not allowed to have contact with minors as part of his treatment.

Brull has no Internet access but acknowledged that he had a friend set up a Web page. He said he seeks correspondence -- including on sexual topics -- with adults, which is not prohibited.

His Web page said Brull welcomes letters from "people of all ages, young or old." He also wrote that his ideal companion would be "18 to 26, maybe older."

Ponce said SRS continues to investigate whether Brull had any contact with minors, she added.

Besides housing the sexual predator unit, Larned State Hospital also treats adults and children with severe mental illnesses who have not been convicted of any offense.

Last year, KDHE inspectors cited more than 150 unsanitary and unsafe conditions at the hospital, including a lack of supervision that led to the choking death of a female patient who was known to have a swallowing disorder.

After making ordered improvements, the hospital has since passed a KDHE reinspection.


NY - Buffer zone measure for sex offenders is on agenda

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06/02/2008

LOCKPORT — A countywide law barring many convicted sex offenders from coming within 1,000 feet of facilities for children is on Tuesday’s Niagara County Legislature agenda.

The Legislature is expected to call a June 17 public hearing on the measure, sponsored by Legislators Paul B. Wojtaszek (Email), R-North Tonawanda; Jason J. Cafarella (Email), D-Niagara Falls; and John D. Ceretto (Email), R-Lewiston.

Since it was first introduced April 1, the proposal has undergone a few revisions. The main change is the deletion of a provision that the buffer zone would apply to all sex offenders.

Now, it calls for barring only Level 2 and Level 3 offenders, the two most serious grades, from a 1,000-foot radius of a school, day care center, park, playground, public swimming pool or public or private youth center.

Wojtaszek said he doesn’t object to not including Level 1 offenders, since, by definition, they are considered the least likely to reoffend.

Sex offenders who already live or work within the 1,000-foot zone will not have to move or change jobs; they will have to avoid contact with children in the zones, however.

Wojtaszek said, “I want to be as reasonable as we can. This isn’t a feel-good law. We’re serious about protecting our children. They’re the most vulnerable people in our society.”

He said the changes resulted after talks with Investigator Leonard Guagliano of the Sheriff’s Office, who is in charge of cataloging sex offenders in the county, and County Attorney Claude A. Joerg.

The purpose was to make the legislation as specific and clear as possible. “There is some litigation about these measures around the country and in Albany County,” Wojtaszek said.

Legislature Chairman William L. Ross (Email), C-Wheatfield, said, “Anything we can do to reinforce the public’s feeling of safety and security for their children is well worth pursuing.”
- And that is all it is, a feeling of safety and security, while it does neither.

Several municipalities in the county, including all three cities, have buffer zone laws with varying provisions. The county law would not supersede the local laws where their provisions are stricter than the county’s.

tprohaska@buffnews.com


NY - Watching Those Who Watch Sex Offenders



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Does Watch Systems, Inc. use deceptive statistics to hype danger?

by David Hess
Representative of SOhopeful of New York
dhess@rochester.rr.com

There is money to be made off of sex offenders. Consider Watch Systems, Inc., a Louisiana based company, which sells their Offender Watch system to counties and sheriffs' departments all over the United States. Their service makes it possible for local residents to see information on sex offenders in their area on local web sites such as that of the county sheriff. Residents also may sign up for e-mail alerts when a registered sex offender moves into their area. Counties pay several thousand dollars for this service. Often this is covered by a grant for the initial year with the county picking up the cost in subsequent years.

It should be of no surprise that fear plays a part in their sales approach. Their web site reminds government entities that they should be afraid of their citizens: “The public has zero tolerance for law enforcement who minimally comply with sex offender laws. How would the public grade your office on sex offender address verification, registration and community notification?”

They also fan the fears of the public. Their online presentation which is incorporated into all their local web sites contains this statement: 50% of sex offenders re-offend." This statement is puzzling, to say the least. It is at variance with the largest study of sex offender recidivism ever done in the United States, a 2003 U.S. Department of Justice report--Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released from Prison in 1994 (PDF). Its findings: “In 1994, prisons in 15 States released 9,691 male sex offenders. The 9,691 men are two-thirds of all the male sex offenders released from State prisons in the United States in 1994. This report summarizes findings from a survey that tracked the 9,691 for 3 full years after their release… Within the first 3 years following their release from prison in 1994, 5.3% (517 of the 9,691) of released sex offenders were rearrested for a sex crime… Of the 9,691 released sex offenders, 3.5% (339 of the 9,691) were reconvicted for a sex crime within the 3-year followup period.

I e-mailed Watch Systems and asked them for the source of their 50% recidivism figure. I received this response from Mark A. Wilson, their Vice President of Marketing: “…we are not trying by any means to exaggerate the recidivism statistics nor to create hysteria – the numbers we use are widely reported in various channels and media and by various experts in the field. They are based in part on this and other studies from the Dept of Justice http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/soo.pdf

The source of their information was Sex Offenses and Offenders; An Analysis of Data on Rape and Sexual Assault by Lawrence A. Greenfeld, Statistician, Bureau of Justice Statistic, February 1997. It is important to note that this study is ten years older than the Department of Justice study referenced above. When one looks at the details of the study, one finds that Watch Systems' use of the statistics contained therein is questionable, at best. Here are some direct quotations from the report:

Offenders convicted of rape and sexual assault composed just over 4% of those discharged from prisons in the 11 States in 1983. Over the 3-year period following prison release, an estimated 52% of discharged rapists and 48% of discharged sexual assaulters were re-arrested for a new crime. Their criminal history records also evidenced a lower percentage of sex offenders who were reconvicted and reimprisoned during the followup period than was the case for all violent offenders discharged from prison...

Nearly 28% of released rapists were re-arrested for a new violent crime within 3 years (figure 27). For nearly 8% of released rapists, the new arrest for a violent crime was another charge for rape. (p. 25)

Note that the study states clearly that violent sex offenders have a lower recidivism rate than other offenders. If one does the math, the study reports that only 2.24% of rapists are returned to prison for committing another rape. (8% of 28%)

The statement by Watch Systems, Inc. that "50% of sex offenders re-offend," clearly implies that 50% of registered sex offenders commit new sex crimes. This statement is clearly deceptive and does raise unwarranted hysteria about sex offenders.

New York regularly publishes 3 year follow-ups of all those released from state prisons. Between 1985 and 2002 a total of 12,863 sex offenders were released. Only 272 of these (2.1%) were returned to prison for new sex crimes within three years of their release. (2002 Releases: Three Year Post Release Follow-up (PDF), State of New York Department of Correctional Services, p. 16)

A recently published study was done of 19,827 offenders on the New York State Sex Offender Registry on March 31, 2005 (including those sentenced to probation (41%) or local jails. It found that the re-arrest rate for a new sex crime within 8 years of the date of first registration was 8%. The study also found that "sex offenders are arrested and/or convicted of committing a new sex crime at a lower rate than other offenders who commit other new non-sexual crimes." (Research Bulletin: Sex Offender Populations, Recidivism and Actuarial Assessment (PDF), New York State Division of Probation and Correctional Alternatives, May, 2007, p. 3-4). (Read a detailed analysis of sex offender recidivism in New York State)

Watch Systems’ online presentation also states: “More than half of rape/sexual assault incidents happened within a mile of the victim’s home.” This statement is contained in the Department of Justice report. Of course, the report also states that almost 40% of the assaults occur in the victim's home. This is obviously because a large number of these offenses occur within the family. The determining factor in these crimes is usually not geography, but relationships.

While a sex offender registry has its place as one tool among many, its worth should not be over emphasized. The face of danger is more likely to be in a family snapshot than in a mug shot on a sex offender registry. The vast majority of sex crimes are committed by someone not listed on a sex offender registry. The vast majority of registered sex offenders never commit another sex crime.


NC - Lawmakers to consider 'Jessica's Law' bill

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06/02/2008

RALEIGH - A Senate committee plans to take a look at Jessica's Law Tuesday morning, a step which could lead toward tougher penalties and monitoring requirements for sex offenders who commit crimes against children.
- I am willing to bet these laws are not just for people who've committed crimes against children, but ALL sex offenders.

The bill, which would require a minimum 25-year prison sentence for a person who rapes a child under the age of 13, was approved by the House last year. It also requires such people to submit to GPS monitoring once released from prison, sets up stronger offender registration requirements and makes it illegal for a sex offender to be on the premises of places where children regularly congregate without adult supervision.

"We're protecting children from child predators," said Rep. Tim Moore (Email), R-Cleveland, one of the bill's sponsors.
- Not all sex offenders are predators!

Sen. David Hoyle (Email), D-Gaston, has introduced a bill that he hopes will supplement the proposed Jessica's Law. His bill would require anyone convicted of molesting a child younger than 13 to submit to GPS monitoring for life.
- And who will pay for the expensive GPS for life?

"This is a one strike and you're out," Hoyle said.

The proposed law is named in memory of Jessica Lunsford, the 9-year-old girl who was kidnapped, raped and murdered by a sexual predator in Florida in February 2005.
Jessica was born in Gaston County. After moving to Florida to live with her father, she was sexually assaulted and killed by John Couey, a registered sex offender.

Police lost track of Couey. He was staying with his sister in the same neighborhood as Jessica. He has been sentenced to die for crimes related to Jessica's death.

A representative of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina had some qualms with a couple of the provisions in the proposed North Carolina law.

Sarah Preston, the organization's legislative director, said she felt the ban on registered offenders being in areas frequented by children was overly broad. She said it could apply to people who pose no risk for children and could result in such people not being able to go to some restaurants, shopping malls and grocery stores.

For example, Preston said that a registered offender could find a McDonald's restaurant off limits because minors like to eat there, sometimes unsupervised by an adult.

Moore said he doesn't believe the bill is that broad.

"I think they're painting it with a bigger brush than it deserves," Moore said. "It's ultimately up to a jury. If they want to go to McDonald's, that's fine. But they shouldn't be going to the playground at McDonald's."

Preston also said that since the ban would apply to registered sex offenders who move to North Carolina from other states, it could apply to people who are not a threat to children.

For example, in some states, a person who is 18 and has sex with a 17-year-old can be charged with statutory rape, but not in North Carolina.

"They're not actually a risk to children, but it applies to them," Preston said.

Barry Smith can be reached at bsmith@link.freedom.com.


CA - Ex-SoCal officer pleads not guilty to federal charges

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06/02/2008

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A former police officer from Bell pleaded not guilty today to federal civil rights charges alleging that he sexually assaulted a woman while he was on duty.

Thirty-3-year-old Feliciano Sanchez of Pico Rivera was arrested last week by FBI agents.

A two-count indictment returned by a Los Angeles federal grand jury accuses Sanchez of deprivation of rights under color of law and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence.

The indictment says Sanchez sexually assaulted the victim last May after conducting a traffic stop. He is accused of driving the woman to a remote location, where he forced her to perform a sex act.

Sanchez worked for the Bell Police Department for 3 1/2 years and was fired in September.


NY - State Labor investigator accused of sex with child

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06/02/2008

LOUDONVILLE — State police today announced the arrest of a Department of Labor employee for allegedly having sexual relations with a 13-year-old girl.

Arthur Frank Durivage IV, 29, of Troy, faces a second-degree rape charge. He allegedly had sex with the girl three times in September in Watervliet.

Police said Durivage, an investigator with the state Department of Labor, maintained e-mail communications with the victim while at work using a state computer.

Durivage was arrested Friday and arraigned in Watervliet City Court and jailed in lieu of $75,000 bail.

This afternoon, the Department of Labor said Durivage had been placed on unauthorized leave without pay, and said it would review further disciplinary actions and await the outcome of the criminal case.


MN - Woman accused of sexual misconduct with two girls

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Why are articles about women who commit sexual crimes usually small articles, and many do not have photos of the female offender?

06/02/2008

Criminal charges have been filed against a 27-year-old Rochester woman accused of sexually assaulting girls.

Julie Ann Jean McKoon, is charged with one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, three counts of second-degree, one count of third- and one count of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct. All are felonies. A summons has been issued for her to make her first appearance in Olmsted District Court on June 26.

According to the criminal complaint, the sexual contact and assaults, involving two juvenile girls, occurred between August 2007 and April 1, 2008.

McKoon is accused of sexually touching one of the girls and sexually touching and penetrating the other. One of the girls reported the abuse to a social worker in March. The other girl told police of the incidents several days later. The incidents allegedly occurred at McKoon's residence.

The complaint says McKoon denied sexual contact with the girls. She admitted to having conversations about sex with one of the girls.


OH - Woman faces teen sex charges

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06/02/2008

A 40-year-old woman accused of having sex with a 15 year old could enter a plea today or agree to go to trial.

Amy Farrell is scheduled to appear this morning before Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Charles J. Kubicki Jr.

Police have said she engaged in sexual conduct for more than a year with a boy in her custody.

The boy was 15 years old and she was 38 in August 2006, when investigators say the sexual relationship began. It continued until December 2007, and she was charged in February, court records state.


MO - Mom in Web bullying case turns grief into activism

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05/30/2008

DARDENNE PRAIRIE (AP)When Tina Meier's 13-year-old daughter committed suicide after being bullied on the Internet, her grief was so encompassing she felt at times she couldn't breathe. She had trouble being around loved ones who reminded her of her child. Even today, recollections of those first holidays after Megan's death are foggy at best.

But in recent months, the Missouri woman has focused on ways to protect other children from bullying, even leaving her job as a real estate agent to dedicate herself to the Megan Meier Foundation.

"Megan is still my daughter, no matter what, and I am going out there and fighting for her still because she is still my daughter," Meier said.

A group of friends and relatives helped Meier create the foundation, which seeks to educate and encourage positive changes to prevent bullying and cyberbullying. Meier and the volunteers are working to improve laws. They speak at schools and to parent groups. They hope to begin offering scholarships to children who help other children in some way.

Megan hanged herself in her closet on Oct. 16, 2006. Her tragic story became public only last fall following an article in a suburban St. Louis newspaper that prompted widespread interest in her case.

Megan had a history of attention deficit disorder and depression. Her suicide came soon after she received mean messages through the MySpace social networking Web site.

Earlier this month, a federal grand jury indicted 49-year-old Lori Drew, a neighbor of Megan and her family. She is accused of one count of conspiracy and three counts of accessing protected computers without authorization to get information used to inflict emotional distress. The charges were filed in California where MySpace is based. MySpace is a subsidiary of Beverly Hills-based Fox Interactive Media Inc., which is owned by News Corp.

Authorities have said Drew, Drew's teenage daughter and another teen took part in an online hoax, creating a fake boy named Josh Evans who befriended and flirted with Megan online. Drew allegedly wanted to know what Megan was saying about her own daughter online. Shortly before Megan's death, the comments from Josh and some other Internet users turned cruel, with "Josh" allegedly saying the world would be better without Megan.

Drew's attorney, Dean Steward, said she has been advised by her lawyers not to speak about the case. Another lawyer for Drew previously said she did not create the account and was not aware of any mean messages sent to the girl before her death.

Meier, 37, said her grief hits her in waves, and it remains difficult to talk about Megan's death. Meier's life has gone through other changes as well. She and her husband, Ron, divorced. Meier now lives in a town house not far from her old neighborhood with her 12-year-old daughter, Allison.

In an interview with The Associated Press at her home in the St. Louis suburb of Dardenne Prairie, Meier said she does not believe Drew meant to drive Megan to suicide. But, Meier said, she believes Drew "played with fire" and should receive the maximum penalty: 20 years in prison.

Meier hopes the foundation's work will allow something right to come from a wrong. She is also working with http://www.stopcyberbullying.org on its efforts to prevent online harassment. And, she's encouraging people to take the Megan Pledge, an effort asking Internet users to stop bullying.

Talking about Megan's experience to middle and high school students is something Meier said she feels she needs to do. She tells them Megan was a real girl, with real dreams, and talks to them about how taunting other children can have consequences.

The presentations can be an emotional drain that leave her feeling she's made of Jell-O, or prompt an extended crying bout. But Meier said she gets a lot out of them, especially the conversations with parents and children after she tells them Megan's story.

Some kids tell her they are having a tough time. Others have admitted bullying classmates, and say they'll try to change their ways.

"I just get my head in a different place. I just go, and I talk to them because my goal is, if there's one child I can change or help in any way, that's what I focus on," Meier said.

Friends and foundation colleagues Christine Buckles and Paul Arthur believe the foundation's work has been helpful to her.

"They say a mother is the strongest woman in the world. That's absolutely true with Tina," Arthur said.

Meier said almost all the communication she receives from the public is encouraging. But she also receives comments from those who take her to task because her daughter was on antidepressants, who criticize how she raised her child, even those who judge her for divorcing her husband.

Meier is convinced those messages come from people who don't know her and the whole story. "If I sat and listened to that every single day, and read that every single day, I wouldn't move forward," she said.

Meier believes the work of the foundation is making a difference because she hears from people who tell her so.

"I'm going to try and do the best I can do to, hopefully, know that no other family goes through this," she said.

On the Net:


WI - Ashwaubenon board approves sex offender loitering ordinance

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06/02/2008

Restricted areas are where kids might gather

ASHWAUBENON — Sex offenders still under state supervision shouldn't be allowed to hang out near parks, schools and other places children might gather within the village, leaders have agreed.

The Village Board on Tuesday approved an ordinance forbidding sex offenders under court-ordered supervision by the Wisconsin Department of Corrections from loitering within 200 feet of restricted zones.
- Ok, it says loitering, and click the link. Loitering means being somewhere without a reason, not that you can't be there period.

The ordinance mirrors a Hobart law.

According to the ordinance, loitering means, "whether in a group, crowd or as an individual, to stand idly about, loaf, prowl, congregate, wander, stand, linger aimlessly, proceed slowly or with many stops, to delay or dawdle."

They would be allowed in those areas if on official business and accompanied by another adult who is not a designated offender.

They also won't be allowed to participate in a holiday event involving children under the age of 16, such as distributing candy or other items to children on Halloween.

The new ordinance comes on the heels of the board's decision to bar certain sex offenders from living in most of the village.

Enacting a residency restriction similar to Green Bay's, leaders agreed certain sex offenders cannot live within 1,500 feet of a school, day-care center, park or other place children might gather. Offenders currently living in the village will be grandfathered in, unless they move.

Village President Jerry Menne said on Thursday village leaders have yet to vote on creating a panel to consider appeals from sex offenders who want to move into the village.

Ashwaubenon officials say they needed to adopt ordinances because of Green Bay's strict residency rules. Green Bay passed an ordinance restricting certain sex offenders from living within most of the city about a year ago.

Since then, Ashwaubenon has seen an increase in sex offenders moving into the village, public safety officials say.