No Sex Offenders Allowed

October 7, 2009

fairfieldweekly.com : No Sex Offenders Allowed – Greenwich, CT ponders restricting where registered sex offenders can go.

Greenwich has just 5 sex offenders listed on the state’s official registry. There are a total of 4,975 registered offenders in the state. Yet it is town officials in Greenwich who have been debating since February whether to approve an ordinance that would prohibit sex offenders from being near schools, parks, playgrounds and other places children congregate. The ordinance would not limit where sex offenders can live, as similar laws in other states do, but it would impose a $100 fine on a registered offender caught in the wrong place for a second time.

After unanimous approval by the Board of Selectmen, the measure moved on to the Representative Town Meeting, the city’s 230-member legislative body, where it failed twice, most recently on Sept. 21.

Robert Brady, chairman of the RTM’s education committee, said last week the three committees, including his, which rejected the measure, were concerned about its fairness and effectiveness.

“Police say it’s useless and doesn’t help them. Why on earth would the town go forward on something that’s of no use and simply a waste of money?” said Brady.

The ordinance’s chief proponent, Sam Romeo, chairman of the Community and Police Partnership Committee for the eastern end of town, bristled at Brady’s contention that Greenwich Police didn’t back the ordinance, and police spokesman Lt. Daniel Allen confirmed the department approached the town about the ordinance.

Romeo called the measure a “no-brainer,” especially given the proximity of metropolitan New York. “Though we only have five registered sex offenders in town, two minutes away there are thousands of registered sex offenders who come in and out of town all the time,” he said.
(This is why residency restrictions do not work; anyone can travel to another city or neighborhood)

Measures similar to the one being considered in Greenwich have been implemented in cities across the United States, and in Danbury, Brookfield, New Milford, Ridgefield and Windsor Locks. In Danbury, Brookfield and New Milford, signs are posted warning registered sex offenders to stay away from parks and other areas where children congregate. Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi said his town will have signs up in about two months. Only Windsor Locks decided not to post signs, but the city did send letters to its 17 registered offenders, making them aware of the ordinance.

“Look, there is obviously an extremely delicate balance between protecting the public and the constitutional rights and freedoms of individuals, whether they are convicted sexual predators or not,” he said. “The difficulty comes with the fact that this type of crime has an extraordinarily high recidivism rate. (THIS IS A FALSE STATEMENT -click to read official data)

McKinney’s contention that released sex offenders will likely offend again is contradicted by a variety of studies, according to Elizabeth Cafarella, director of public policy and communication for Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services, a statewide coalition of nine community-based rape crisis centers.

Cafarella said research has shown differing recidivism rates for sex offenders, ranging from a low of 5 percent to a high of about 30 percent. But she said what has been proven is that the more stable a sex offender’s life is, including supervision and monitoring, the less likely he is to reoffend. And she says ordinances like the one being considered in Greenwich can work against stability.

“Residency restrictions can have unintended consequences, forcing offenders into rural areas where they become transient and can’t be monitored,” said Cafarella.

In fact, that’s exactly what happened in Georgia, Florida and Iowa, which have some of the toughest sex offender laws in the country. The New York Times reported in March 2006 that the number of registered sex offenders considered missing in Iowa tripled after a state law barring them from living within 2,000 feet of a school or daycare center was passed the previous September.

In 2007, CNN.com ran a story about a group of five registered sex offenders living under a bridge near Biscayne Bay after several Florida cities passed laws prohibiting them from living within 2,500 feet of schools, parks and other places children might gather. And earlier this year, USA Today reported on Georgia sex offenders taking to tent cities in the woods after the state banned them from “living, working or loitering” within 1,000 feet of places children gather.

“I was wrong, I deserved every day of my sentence,” said ex-offender Drupals in an interview last week. “But this [ordinance] goes way beyond a sentence and takes away the very things that are so meaningful to citizens; going to the park with your family on a summer’s day. I wouldn’t be able to do that for the rest of my life.”

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