Friday, October 14, 2011
By Mischa Arnosky
Abington Solicitor: This is 'not completely unexpected.'
The Abington Board of Commissioners yesterday approved a motion to advertise an ordinance to repeal a 2005 ordinance which established sex offender residency restrictions — this, on the heels of a Pennsylvania Supreme Court Ruling, which deemed a similar ordinance in Allegheny County, unconstitutional.
The residency restriction ordinance passed in September 2005 and reads, “No person who is required ... to be registered with the Pennsylvania State Police as a sexual offender (hereinafter a "sexual offender"), shall be permitted to reside or live in the Township of Abington within 2,500 feet of any existing school, park, playground or day-care center.”
It continues, “Any sexual offender who relocates so as to reside or live in the Township of Abington within 2,500 feet of any existing school, park, playground or day-care center in the Township shall have 60 days from receipt of written notice of the prohibition … to relocate to a location which does not violate the prohibition …”
Allegheny County passed its ordinance in October 2007; it also limited sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of schools, parks and daycare centers.
Commissioner John Carlin voiced some concern about the potential of repealing the ordinance. He asked Abington Township Solicitor Rex Herder if the current ordinance could be modified. And during last week’s public safety committee meeting he said that he didn’t feel comfortable about repealing the ordinance without having a replacement.
Herder said there is not much the township can do with regards to residency requirements, and added that the pressure to repeal the ordinance is “not completely unexpected.”
“The [Pennsylvania] Supreme Court struck down the Allegheny County ordinance on the grounds that it attempted … to regulate those places where convicted sexual offenders may or may not live,” Herder said. “The Supreme Court held that that ordinance, and any similar ordinance, conflicted with, and was preempted by two different Pennsylvania state laws."
Those laws deal with the sentencing of criminal offenders, and the supervision of criminal offenders once they are released from custody, according to Herder.
“On that ground, the Supreme Court held the Allegany ordinance absolutely unconstitutional … there’s no remedy, no fix, if you will,” he said.
When the township adopted the ordinance in 2005, it did so under the First Class Township Code, which gives municipalities the authority to adopt regulations pertaining to health, safety and welfare.
In fact, the agenda item last night fell under “Public Safety,” rather than “Public Affairs.”
Carlin pressed, “So you’re saying there’s no remedy whatsoever … or this township has no authority and no jurisdiction to regulate where sexual offenders live?”
Herder: “That is correct.”
Upper Dublin Township passed a similar ordinance in 2007; its board must now decide whether to repeal it.
Community issues surrounding sex offenders will be addressed at Lifetree Café locations across the country. Visit here to find a location near you.
The Lifetree event, titled "The Sex Offender Next Door," features exclusive filmed interviews with sex offense victims and registered sex offenders. The film explores the pain that victims suffer, as well as the social stigma that sex offenders experience.
"This program builds awareness of a community problem that is sometimes hidden," according to Lifetree Café representative Craig Cable. "People often wonder where registered sex offenders reside, how they should be treated, and how to stay safe from the dangerous people who live nearby."
Cable said the Lifetree event explores the various offenses that lead to sexual offender registration, including Internet offenses.
Admission to the 60-minute event is free. Snacks and beverages are available. Find the Lifetree Café nearest you by clicking here.
Lifetree Café is a place where people gather for conversations about life and faith in a casual coffeehouse-type setting. More about Lifetree may be found at our website http://lifetreecafe.com/.
By James Lynch
He's out of jail and in a new neighborhood in Graham
GRAHAM - A convicted sex offender who was released from jail Monday has already moved in just blocks from a Pierce County elementary school.
A Graham neighborhood is on edge, and the school district is sending out a warning.
His name is [name withheld].
[name withheld] was convicted of raping a child at 15. Then he was convicted again at 19 for raping a woman at a party.
He said he's trying to change his life, but even his own mother said she isn't buying it.
[name withheld] is a man with a violent past, first convicted for sexually assaulting two female family members, one of whom was just ten years old.
"I've made some mistakes in my life, some worse than others, obviously,” said [name withheld].
Less than six months out from that assault, [name withheld] was in trouble again.
"I was 19 years old, and I went to a party, and I had a one night stand, if you may, with a female and she said that she didn't consent to that," [name withheld] said.
He served three-and-a-half years in Walla Walla, and just got out of the Pierce County jail again on Monday after doing 80 days for failing to register as a sex offender.
He's living with friends.
Neighbors don't like it at all.
"There's kids riding bikes there, I mean there's all kinds of kids here. We don't need anybody in here like that,” said neighbor Mike Caddell.
Just three blocks from [name withheld]'s new home is Centennial Elementary.
Neighbors don't like that either, but it is [name withheld]'s own mother who sounded the alarm.
Speaking by phone on October 13, [mother's name withheld] said, "He’s been in and out since he was 14. He re-violated in six months, did three years in Walla Walla and just got out a few days ago. He’s level 3 and I’m worried he will reoffend again.”
The Bethel School District was just notified of [name withheld]'s new address.
They urge parents to be vigilant.
"Make sure you know where your kids are going, what they're doing, who they are with,” Bethel School District spokesperson Krista Carlson said.
After all the sad reality, said Pierce County detective Ed Troyer, sex offenders are everywhere.
"There are a lot of them in Pierce County,” Troyer said. “Go to our registration on our website and look at one of the 2800 level sex offenders that are out in your neighborhood. You can punch any address or school and you're going to have results."
[name withheld] claims he has turned over a new leaf.
"I'm doing what I need to do to become a productive member of society. I'm seeking treatment. I'm trying to get a job, just trying to direct my life down the right path."
By Jeff Humphrey
SPOKANE - The Spokane Police Department is getting ready to restart a program that warns neighbors when a registered sex offender moves into their neighborhood.
People can get information on where sex offenders are living in the area by looking the data up online or going to the nearest police or SCOPE substation. But some people, despite those resources, are still not getting this information, so some volunteers are now going door-to-door to let residents know if sex offenders are living in their neighborhood.
During the day Antonette Guzman watches her kids as well as her cousin's and feels safe in their fenced-in front yard. She was shocked to learn Thursday afternoon a Level 3 sex offender had moved into the neighborhood three blocks from her home.
"I didn't even know about this and I'm out here with my cousins coming over to visit and we had no idea. We probably wouldn't be doing this so freely had we have known," she said.
To make sure people know, the Spokane Police Department is stepping up its sex offender notification program.
Whenever Level 2 or Level 3 sex offenders change addresses volunteers will be warning neighbors within three blocks in person.
"We realize not everybody has a computer nor do we expect them to check every day if a sex offender is living in their neighborhood so the paper notification gets that information out and everybody will have that then," Spokane Police Detective Scott Anderson said.
[name withheld] was convicted of sexually assaulting a 14 year old girl after he lured her inside his motel room. Now that he's living just a few blocks away, Guzman is worried about her teenage sister.
"If this is something that can be prevented because we have knowledge of it, it would just kind of make it a little easier so it doesn't happen," she said.
Police say not all registered sex offenders re-offend and often just keep to themselves. Officials say the more the public knows about offenders in their area, the safer their neighborhoods will be.
So Mr. Stone, show me one case where a known sex offender, or even a non-sexual offender, harmed a child sexually on Halloween. Just one case! Besides, if parents are so worried about their kids, and you are not just trying to make a name for yourself, why don't they just go along with their kids on Halloween night? It's called being a parent!
By DAVE DOWNEY
As children throughout Riverside County prepare for the annual rite of trick-or-treating, county Supervisor Jeff Stone is proposing an ordinance that would bar registered sex offenders from participating in Halloween activities.
"I'm trying to limit the casual contact between registered sex offenders and children," Stone said in a telephone interview Thursday. "And Halloween is an ample opportunity for sexual predators to lure children into their homes. I'm trying to do everything I can to limit that casual interaction that some people may not see the seriousness of."
Stone said he will bring his proposal to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday in the form of an urgency ordinance amendment.
Deputy County Counsel Tiffany North said the measure would prohibit registered sex offenders from decorating their homes with Halloween symbols at any time on Oct. 31, from answering the doors of their homes to children who are trick-or-treating, and from turning on any outdoor lights between 5 and 11:59 p.m. on Halloween.
Because it is an urgency measure, it must be approved by four of the five supervisors, North said. If the ordinance is approved by a four-fifths vote, she said, it will take effect immediately and apply to every Halloween holiday going forward, including the one about two weeks away.
- So, why did he wait so long to propose this? Or was it something that just popped out of his head to make himself look good and further punish those who have paid their debts to society?
However, it would only apply in unincorporated communities of Riverside County, because the board does not have jurisdiction in the cities.
North said the measure is an amendment to a county ordinance adopted earlier that prohibits sex offenders out on parole from loitering within 300 feet of parks, day care centers, bus stops, schools and other places where children congregate.
She said county lawyers are confident the measure is constitutional because the cities of San Jacinto and Orange have similar ordinances that have not been struck down.
Escondido also has a Halloween ordinance that bars sex offenders from decorating houses, turning lights on and passing out candy. The North San Diego County city's law has been on the books for many years, and police there routinely check offenders' homes to make sure they are complying.
Passing an ordinance in Riverside County should go a long way toward preventing a child from being molested on the holiday, Stone said.
- Like I said, show me just one case where a child was molested on Halloween, just one!
"When you turn your lights out, it is a signal to the parents, don't go up to the house because nobody's there," he said.
- So now that you mention parents, if parents are along with their child, what is the problem? Is the person going to molest the kids and parents?
|Beware the Zombies!|
- Again, you are trying to prevent something that is not a problem. And if parents are being parents and going along, then what is the problem? I just think you are blowing this out of proportion for your own benefit. Hey, we should write laws to prevent major zombie outbreaks, so we can protect the kids and adults from zombies. Yeah, we need to keep everyone safe from zombies. Same idea!
Stone said the holiday restrictions are an outgrowth of an initiative he introduced in April under the acronym ERACE: Eliminate Registrant Attendance at County Entities.
- What's up with all these acronyms for sex offender laws and hysteria?
Besides regulating the activities of registered sex offenders on holidays, the initiative seeks to prohibit the parolees from visiting county-owned facilities, such as recreation centers and museums, where children congregate. Stone also proposed banning sex offenders from attending county-sponsored public events such as the Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival in the spring and the Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival in Indio during the winter.
North said the county counsel's office is still researching the idea of a ban at county facilities and events.
More than 3,000 registered sex offenders live in Riverside County.
The board is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the County Administrative Center, 4080 Lemon St., Riverside (Map).