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Sex-offender Ordinance Halted

February 19, 2009

ManitowocHeraldTimes (Wisconsin) : Sex-offender Ordinance Halted.

A proposal to keep convicted sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of areas frequented by children in the city of Manitowoc was knocked down tonight by the Public Property and Safety Committee of the City Council.
Committee members voted 4-1 to halt the creation of the ordinance, which would have kept offenders from residing near churches, schools, licensed child care centers, trails and parks. Maps drafted by the city showed that nearly all of Manitowoc would be off-limits to sex offenders with the 2,000-foot setback.

“There is no proof that we’re keeping our kids any safer by doing this,” Alderman Dave Soeldner said of the proposed ordinance. “There is some indication we may be endangering our kids more.”

“I can’t believe anyone would vote for this,” Sieracki said. “All the groups have said the same thing — it’s a bad idea. If we’re creating safe zones, then we’re creating danger zones. Our energy would be better spent on promoting safe behaviors.”

Sitkiewitz, chairman of the committee, said he instead would like the city to work on an ordinance with stronger notification requirements for residents when a convicted sex offender moves into their neighborhood.

“Having a bubble around your neighborhood doesn’t make it safe,” Sitkiewitz said. “I’m more concerned about notification and communication.”

Officials at the meeting, however, said the belief that a residency restriction will make the community safer is a fallacy. “Sex offenders live amongst us — they always have, and they always will,” Manitowoc County District Attorney Mark Rohrer said. “I don’t think (a residency restriction) is a good idea.”

Rohrer said most sexual offenses take place between people who know each other, and that often means they’re occurring inside homes.

“The majority isn’t circled by this (ordinance),” Sitkiewitz said. “Any ordinance that we draw will not exclude people from being friends.”

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