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City Council to Get Initial Plan on Local Sex Offender Law

Mayor Bettencourt will be sending an initial form of the local law he is proposing to place restrictions on sex offenders to the City Council on Tuesday.

Mayor Ted Bettencourt says he will be bringing a preliminary form of a new ordinance to the City Council Tuesday night to  can live and go in Peabody.

Last month we reported that the city would be exploring such an ordinance after it came to Bettencourt's attention that there are currently no restrictions in place within the city.

Peabody is not alone in that regard, however; most cities and towns in Massachusetts and across the country do not have local laws prohibiting the activities of convicted Level 3 sex offenders.

There are only about 20 communities in the Bay State that have enacted "sex offender-free zones" or "child safety zones." Massachusetts has not joined about two dozen states that have adopted statewide laws since 1996, thereby leaving that work to local officials.

Placing restrictions on the activities of convicted offenders are typically dealt with in court by a judge.

There are currently 12 registered Level 3 offenders in Peabody, according to the Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board.

Bettencourt says his proposed ordinance still needs some tweaks and so a final draft won't be sent to the council until in reconvenes in August. He hopes to have a local law in place shortly thereafter. 

He said the city will look to both restrict where Level 3 sex offenders can live in Peabody and also their proximity to certain public or recreational facilities where children congregate, such as schools or parks.

He said his greatest concern is simply to protect the city's children.

He said the city's legal team and Police Chief Robert Champagne, who helped draft the proposal, reviewed what other communities have done but still ended with a plan specific to Peabody.

The proposed language is also being reviewed by the Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett's office, but Bettencourt said, he has not received an opinion from the DA's office on the merits of the law.

Level 2 and Level 3 offenders are only required to register with the police and those individuals' names, addresses and pictures are then made available to the public. Any restrictive conditions placed upon them are imposed under terms of probation or by the parole board.

Champagne, in a previous interview, commended Bettencourt for being proactive on the issue and said he brought some creative ideas to the table.

He said the local law needs to strike a balance between promoting public safety while not infringing on the rights of offenders who have served their time. He said he would ideally prefer to have an overreaching state law instead.

Champagne noted that sex offender registration laws are still regularly undergoing legislative revisions -- the names and addresses of the most serious offenders was not made available to the public until 1996 -- and that judges these days consequently are very sensitive to the aforementioned balance when it comes to sentencing.

"Judges are very cognizant of putting restrictions on them…but when someone’s a free man, they get to roam the streets as you and I,” Champagne said.

Bettencourt does anticipate any local law will be challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union. The Massachusetts chapter has appealed in many instances thus far on constitutional grounds, arguing the local laws infringe on individual rights.

"I certainly understand those arguments," Bettencourt said. "But my greater concern is with the health and safety of children."

Champagne, who pointed to the challenge to Lynn's recent local law, said an argument has always been, "Is the punishment ever over? At some point they can't find a place to live, to work...and end up becoming a ward of the state."

In Lynn's case, the argument is that "exclusion zones" cover most of the geographic area of the city and nearly all its available housing.

That being said, and given the circumstances, Champagne thinks a local ordinance can help.

"I anticipate the ACLU will be closely watching it and once the council adopts [the ordinance], there will be some legal challenge," Bettencourt said.

That's not discouraging him, however, from pursuing the issue.

Bettencourt said the new law, again, is being crafted with the best interests of Peabody's residents in mind.

"If they [the ACLU] challenge it, they challenge it," he said.

No further details have been made public yet on the city's plan.

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to let us know what you think about the city adopting a local ordinance?

Rudy101 July 16, 2012 at 10:32 PM
Can anyone come up with ANY evidence that ANY residency restrictions have ANY effect on safety of the community? It has been exhaustively researched by both Colorado and Minnesota. They said there is no relationship. They could not find even ONE instance where the proximity of an offender and a park has any relationship to offending. So, where is the public safety? Are you saying, you don't need actual public safety, but only theories of public safety in order to banish a person from the community? I get it! You just keep saying public safety over and over, and everyone will believe it, even as offenders are thrown onto the streets, unable to find homes and wander around aimlessly in the community; you will say, the community is better protected. What a JOKE you people are. You have created a system where a person has no legal protection from arbitrary laws. There is only one answer. Your registry has become illegal. It does not protect the community and is only used to punish. That means, your registry and registry laws can and will be IGNORED. Hey! Who do you think is next up for banishment?
Johnny D. July 16, 2012 at 11:22 PM
Those sickos lost their rights when they commited these brutal crimes. Lock em up and throw away the key! The registry is essential in protecting our families against these monsters...and will only get more extensive. You wouldn't be defending these animals if your child was molested by one....bet you wouldn't be spewing the "they have no legal protection from arbitary laws" nonsense then! Convicted sex offenders (esp level 3) are very likely to repeat (note: I did not say get CAUGHT for reviolating) and should be restricted access to our children. You don't like it....don't sexually assault someone! 99% of our population can live by that rule...if someone can't then they forfeit their rights in my eyes. The victims of these crimes can never, EVER go back to "normal" lives...why should the attackers be afforded that luxury? Don't give me the "they paid their debt to society" bologna..THE VICTIM LIVES IN CONSTANT PAIN AND WILL NEVER HAVE LIFE RETURN TO NORMAL. I can't see how anyone has even an ounce of sympathy for these predators....and hope I live to see the day when there are even HARSHER penalties for convicted offenders. I like your banishment idea...
Lance Mitaro July 17, 2012 at 04:13 AM
Lawmakers suffer the delusion that you can somehow make the world perfectly safe for children. Unfortunately, it isn't possible and their fruitless efforts to make it so quickly claim an unjustifiable price in both tax money and liberty. Obviously, this is not a cute little game anymore.. You're only a "victim" as long as you CHOOSE to be one. Don't come in here whining playing the victim card pandering for attention and approval. Kids are tough and survive somehow through it all. What makes YOU think that YOU reserve the "right" to protect your children at the expense of circumventing and compromising other's safety, security and privacy?? You're going to end up on the wrong side of history along with slavery, bullying, fascism and racism with that mindset. Limiting everyone's liberty and privacy is NOT the way to protect children. Better parenting IS. People like YOU are a far greater threat to the American people and the Constitution than the terrorists in the middle east. Posting the private information of ANYONE for all to see is a civil rights, human rights and SAFETY violation. Not to mention an ineffectual way to "safeguard" children. Knowing where someone lives doesn't prevent crime, nor does it protect anyone, much less "save" lives. But hey.. "If It Saves One Child" LOL.
Lance Mitaro July 17, 2012 at 04:16 AM
The sex offender register is an unnecessary evil and a joke. Anyone that supports it or says: "it's a vital tool for law enforcement and paramount to child safety," really is an Anti-American coward and a victim of their own ignorance. Sex offenders are devalued and marginalized by our society to the point of being third-class citizens. Which in turn causes them to just give up and commit more crimes. <b>Bettencourt said. "But my greater concern is with the health and safety of children."</b> Then stop exploiting them for personal gain with your hate and fear mongering.
Lance Mitaro July 17, 2012 at 04:34 AM
“People hasten to judge in order not to be judged themselves.” -Albert Camus
Jay Mello July 17, 2012 at 04:04 PM
So kids should "get over" being raped by filthy perverts? How about this? We beat perverts to death with sticks? I like my idea better.
Jay Mello July 17, 2012 at 04:07 PM
":sex offenders are devalued and marginalized by our society..." DUH>...Exactly what is the value of a child rapist Lance? Care to explain what their proper role in an enlightened society should be?
Whitney Harris July 17, 2012 at 08:55 PM
I have never heard anything so disgusting in my life!! You are telling abused children to stop whining and to get over it.???They are only victims if they allow it??? That is sick, NAMBLA garbage. If I ever catch anyone molesting a child I'd use deadly force to stop it. There should be no debate about where these maggots live, because we should execute them. They should all be killed. And I'm sure you can "get over that".
Whitney Harris July 17, 2012 at 10:12 PM
If you google "Lance Mitaro" you find that he is a frequent, (to say the least), commenter against sex offender registries in newspapers all over the country.

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