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Wisconsin city considers new ordinance for sex crime offenders

Being convicted of a sex crime can lead to serious consequences that can include a lengthy prison sentence. But a conviction can result in registration on a sex offender registry. Being a registered sex offender can affect several areas of a person's life.

Burlington, Wisconsin is considering an ordinance that would not allow sex offenders to reside or hang out in certain places in the city. The proposal comes from the concern that sex offenders who have completed their sentence are only required to provide the address of their residence. Otherwise, they are able to move about and go where they please.

The proposed ordinance would create "child safety zones" where sex offenders would not be able to reside in or hang out within 300 feet of the zones. These zones would include parks, playgrounds, schools, and other areas where children are present. If a sex offender is caught living in or loitering in a zone, law enforcement would be required to see if the offender had a legitimate reason to be there.

Supporters of the ordinance believe that this would be helpful when a parent is concerned about someone who appears to be loitering. The hope is that the ordinance would give officers the ability to make a person leave a zone.

But there are several concerns that accompany this proposed ordinance. This ordinance could seriously infringe on a person's right to freely move about. Also, by restricting areas of residence, could this make the sex offender registry less effective by increasing the number of false reports of residency?

Other communities in Wisconsin have similar sex-offender ordinances already in place. Before considering the adoption of the proposed ordinance, Burlington city officials are looking at the effectiveness of ordinances that other communities have enacted.

Source: The Journal Times online, "Burlington considers child safety zones -- Move to restrict where sex offenders can go," Christine Won, 11 April 2011

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