Police Favor Sex Offender Law Changes

April 23, 2009

www.ottumwa.com (Iowa) : New restrictions could ease residency limits on sex offenders.

Area law enforcement officials like the fact that legislators are considering changes to the state’s restrictions on where convicted sex offenders can live. Frankly, they don’t think the current law accomplishes much. The law is commonly called the “2,000-foot law,” and it prohibits the majority of sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools, day care centers and similar sites. But it says nothing about where offenders can go.

In many areas that means sex offenders are effectively banned from living within city limits. Law enforcement has long said that leads to people lying about their residences. That’s important because both Iowa and federal laws require convicted sex offenders to register with law enforcement. If they lie on that registration, it makes it that much more difficult for officers to track the offenders.

All that could change if legislators in Des Moines adopt changes currently being debated. The new restrictions lift the residency limits for most offenders, and institutes new restrictions that bar convicted sex offenders from going to parks, schools, and other locations where children congregate. Wapello County Sheriff Don Kirkendall likes the changes. “I am in full support,” he said. “I can see it making our job a lot easier.”
Kirkendall said that county law enforcement has handled more sex offenders than it has historically because so many are forced out of cities. That increases the workload for sheriff’s departments.

Appanoose County Sheriff Gary Anderson attended Monday evening’s public hearing at the capital and spoke to legislators in favor of the new changes. He said the proposed law gives officers “better tools” to handle the presence of sex offenders in the community.

While the law enforcement community broadly supports the changes, no one is certain whether legislators will vote to enact them. (Contact the Iowa Legislature!)

“Everyone thought before that [sex offender legislation] was going to be a help,” he said. “It wasn’t.”

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