GREEN BAY, WI (WTAQ) - After further discussion and debate, a Green Bay committee remains defiant and voted to keep the city's sex offender residency ordinance in place.
The Protection and Welfare Committee heard a barrage of testimony from public safety officials in favor of repealing the current residency ordinance.
Green Bay police, the City Attorney's office, the Department of Corrections, the Sex Offender Registration Program, and the District Attorney's office want the city council to scrap the ordinance in favor of establishing child safety zones that prohibit where sex offenders can go.
Public safety officials argue the highly restrictive residency ordinance is increasing the number of child sex offenders from registering with the state and not applying to live in the city.
Public safety officials say study after study shows residency ordinances don't work and have the opposite effect of sex offenders registering where they live.
Jed Neuman is with the Department of Corrections and says residency restrictions compromise their ability to keep the community safe, labeling it such as the perception of safety versus the reality of safety.
"I have yet to find a study that shows they are effective in providing community safety, I've yet to find anything anywhere that lessens recidivism, that they prevent assaults," Neumann said.
Alderman Jerry Wiezbiskie is in a unique position because he served on the city council that passed the residency ordinance.
He voted against five years ago.
Wiezbiskie was frustrated with the committee's vote, "Again here is the common sense factor, I predicted five years ago the ordinance would not work, and here we are today, almost five years later and it's not working."
Alderman Joe Moore is in favor of keeping the current ordinance and says he acting in the heart of what he believes his constituents want.
- Yeah, you don't want to go against what the sheeple want and not look "tough" on crime, which could possibly ruin your career, which the sheeple are paying for. Also, since the majority of the people do not like or want taxes, are you also going to pass a law to eliminate taxes? I doubt it.
Moore wants to see the child safety zones be added to the 2,000 foot residency restriction that also requires child sex offenders to apply to live in the city with the Sex Offender Residency Board.
Moore is calling for some changes to the residency ordinance that would favor a grace period for sex offenders to come forward with where they live and would not incur penalties.
"Until I get a majority of my constituents that come to me with a different feeling that that… I can't use my own emotion to do what I feel I have to do," Moore said.
Alderman Jesse Burnette, who serves on the committee, is in favor of the scrapping the residency ordinance, but doesn't think the public would be ready for it.
He would like to see new child safety zone proposal in place and some sort of grace period before throwing out the ordinance.
Green Bay resident Mary Barlament spoke in favor of scrapping the current residency ordinance in favor of child safety zones.
"This does not work, and I would hope that you would listen to that and the professionals who I think are doing a great job," Barlament said.
- You folks don't care about the facts or what professionals say, only what saves your jobs and makes you look good.
Brown County Assistant District Attorney Kevin Green says he has been dealing with 200% more failure to register and non compliant cases than before the residency ordinance went into effect.
The DA's office is recommending repealing the current ordinance and putting it up for a vote at the full city council.
Green said, "The simple fact is, what objective research they have simply says they are not effective, there is one study that says it is counterproductive, that is because it forces some people underground you lose the benefit of the registry."
Outgoing Green Bay Police Chief Jim Arts wrote the committee a letter asking for a repeal of the residency ordinance in favor of the child safety zones.
Arts recommended a three year trial period.
The committee voted 3-1 to recommend adding a proximity proposal to the current residency ordinance.
The child safety zones would prohibit child sex offenders from going within 150 feet of daycares, schools, and parks.
Aldermen Jesse Brunette, Tim De Wane and David Boyce voted in favor of the recommendation.
Chairman Mark Steuer voted against the recommendation.
"I suppose there is some frustration on my part, because talking to our police department, the state and other agencies, they all say it doesn't work," Steuer said.