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City Council to Consider Local Sex Offender Law

The proposal from the mayor's office would create "child safety zones," such as at city parks and schools, where child sex offenders would not be allowed unless their presence was required for certain occasions -- as a parent, for example

Four months after first revealing he was pursuing a new local law for convicted sex offenders, Mayor Ted Bettencourt’s proposal for child safety zones will be heard by the City Council Thursday night.

Bettencourt submitted a draft form of the proposal to the council on Oct. 4, and if approved, would in fact be an amendment to existing city codes.

The proposal targets “child sex offenders” and “child safety zones.” The goal of the law is to make it “unlawful for a child sex offender to be present in any child safety zone,” reads the draft language.

There is no state law in Massachusetts or in most other states restricting the activities of convicted sex offenders -- neither do most cities and towns have such local laws. Such restrictions are typically dealt with in court by a judge as part of sentencing.

Bettencourt says his greatest concern here is for the "health and safety" of the city's children.

He expects a legal challenge will be forthcoming from the Massachusetts American Civil Liberties Union, which has appealed many other communities' attempts to enact local laws, arguing the restrictions infringe on individual rights.

"If they [the ACLU] challenge it, they challenge it," Bettencourt said in a previous interview.

Creating safety zones and other definitions

Child safety zones, as outlined in the proposed ordinance, include parks, playgrounds, recreation centers, libraries, schools, daycares, youth centers, video arcades, bathing beaches, swimming pools, gyms, sports fields or sports facilities, along with parking areas and land adjacent to those locations and school or camp bus stops under the city’s jurisdiction or leased by the city for recreational purposes.

The ordinance differs from proposals in other Massachusetts communities – most notably in Lynn – by not containing language specifying where a child sex offender can live in the city or any measurable proximity to the locations above, as long as it’s not next-door.

Child sex offenders would be those Level 2 or 3 offenders whose victims were children under 16, but also include anyone who has not been classified yet by the Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board and who was also convicted of such charges as indecent assault and battery of a child, forced rape of a child, assault with intent to commit rape, kidnapping a child, prostitution of a child, child pornography, etc.

The scope likewise includes those deemed sexually dangerous by the courts and whose victim was a child.

Sex offenders are classified by the board as Level 1, 2 or 3, with the last being for the most serious offenses. Current state law requires Level 2 and 3 offenders to register with the police and those individuals' names, addresses and pictures are then made available to the public.

There are currently 12 registered Level 3 offenders in Peabody.

Some exceptions to the rule

The proposed law does allow for several exceptions to the local prohibition, such as granting an exemption to anyone whose name has been removed from the state registry or other state system where offenses occurred, or who has been reclassified down to a Level 1 offender.

Affected individuals would still be able to attend religious services, but only during hours of worship or programs open to the public and would have to abstain from any religious education programs involving anyone under 18.

Where a child sex offender’s own child is concerned, he or she would be allowed in cases where his or her presence as a parent was required, and only during the specific hours of whatever the activity was. In instances, where the person was a student at a school, his or her presence would be allowed only during required school hours or activities.

Offenders would also be allowed to vote in their normal precincts, and then finally, they would be able to visit a courthouse, City Hall or other government office to transact business, or attend a public meeting, but then vacate the premises immediately afterward.

Enforcement and fines

All child sex offenders in the city would be notified of the new rules by the Police Department, although failure to receive written notice could not be used as a defense for violation of the law. A map of child safety zones would be on file with the Community Development Department, police and the City Clerk’s office, as well as posted at all public buildings and on the city’s website.

Enforcement would rest with the police and allow for fines in addition to criminal charges, if offenders refuse to comply with police orders to vacate the premises. A first violation would carry a fine up to $150 and succeeding violations would be up to $300 each.

The City Council's Legal Affairs Subcommittee, which is chaired by Anne Manning-Martin, is scheduled to review the proposal Thursday, starting at 6:30 p.m. in Wiggin Auditorium at City Hall. Depending on the outcome there, the full council may take a vote later in the evening to adopt the new ordinance.

Rudy101 October 11, 2012 at 12:59 PM
WOW! The ability of towns to make up safety theories and banish people based upon those theories and those theories cannot be challenged in any way. Let us face it, ANY person on a public registry WILL be banished. There is a direct link between public notification and banishment laws. If level 1's were included on the public registry THOSE people would then be a part of the banishment law. These relationships between banishment laws and public access to a registry are clear and can be seen clear across the country. The conclusion is, that your registry is being illegally used as a banishment tool and therefore doesn't have to be followed at all. You all understand why, right?
Saber Walsh October 11, 2012 at 01:08 PM
The rantings of the left that our challenges with childhood obesity have everything to do with "sugary drinks" and junk food have little to do with reality. Our parks and streets are not safe to play in anymore. We had the same "sugary drinks" and junk food 40 years ago but we all got out of the house as soon as homework was done (or before depending when the pick-up softball or basketball game was happening). Now our streets are loaded with hostile, often unlicensed/uninsured drivers, our parks with gang members, and our communities with those who have demonstrated without reasonable doubt that they should be, IN NO WAY, anywhere near our children. As soon as we can be sure that our parks and school grounds are safe from gangs, drug dealers, and known sex offenders, parents will be much more likely to return to the days when we heard "be back when the street lights come on."
Saber Walsh October 11, 2012 at 01:10 PM
And by the way -- THANK YOU MAYOR BETTENCOURT FOR TAKING ACTION !!!
stormshadow October 11, 2012 at 01:37 PM
I am all in favor of banishing, off the planet even, all sex offenders levels 1 through 3. There is nothing wrong with this. Download the app or check the registry for sex offenders and see the amount that live near you/me/us. Staggering. There is an alternative for future sex offenders. Don't offend. Rudy101, you seem offended that sex offenders could be banished. Where do you live and are you on the list?
stormshadow October 11, 2012 at 01:40 PM
Ageed. And tell the PPD, instead of pulling people over for doing 32mph in a 30mph zone to actually seek out these vermin. Cheif Champagne is more worried about a one day liqour license for Latitudes on Rt. 1 than grabbing these scumbags.
Rudy101 October 11, 2012 at 01:41 PM
I don't do the list and I won't do the list and nobody can make me do the list! The registry is a punishment and the prohibition on ex-post facto laws applies. There is no RIGHT to have registry information. There IS a RIGHT to live peaceably in the community. You want take that RIGHT away? You need a court. A town legislature is certainly not enough. Sorry about your registry, stormshadow, but it should've been thought through a little more before these laws were passed.
Extremely Disgruntled October 11, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Quoting above: "Affected individuals would still be able to attend religious services, but only during hours of worship or programs open to the public and would have to abstain from any religious education programs involving anyone under 18." Sounds a little like "gubbamint" telling people how to deal with their learning of their religions.. Also, what about that 18 year old with their freshman partner? That is a child under 16 offense. This one seems like a bid-for-re-election, keep-the-public-fearing passage. A lot more thinking should have gone into this one. I can understand if those barred from these places were convicted of a crime involving the places they were banned from. The religious study one, I can actually see if it were the offender ALONE with children, which would not happen, one can pretty much guarantee that an adult will be in that religious classroom. Think before passage, other states have lost legal battles on these lines. Legislate fairly and accordingly. Be careful what you wish for, sometimes those wishes come back and bite you.
BarT October 11, 2012 at 10:40 PM
I'm sure an offender will eventually sue the city and win. The taxpayer will get hosed for it all because of fear and hysteria. Parents, watch your own kids then the government won't have to.
Robert Gonsalves December 13, 2012 at 03:43 PM
Do the Crime..Do the Time.. Do it again increase the time.. Other than life time probation by the court, all felons are free to live, work, travel as any citizen.. That is why we have a court system. A jury and Judge will determine the severity and make a judgement not a vindictive, vigilante group with low self esteem and low self worth.
ZN January 26, 2013 at 02:54 PM
I was convicted in 1997 It was determined ,after a lengthy and definitive hearing with not one but two appointed by the Govener attorneys that I a disabled Veteren posed a very minimal risk to the public.I have since 1997 never been in any kind of criminal activity since my conviction ,I have been paying $75.00 a year for expenses of the State,I had No previous convictions either.For the last 17 years I have been an exception to the rule and led by example being a model citizen taxpayer and voter.So I guess you tell me,should I be considered more of a threat now after all I have demonstrated or should I be banished,persecuted,and have my family suffer more shame and scrutiny ? It sounds like Salem witch hunting all over again,and the irony is the head office for the Sex Offender Board is located in wonderful Salem Massachusetts,sounds like old times . Ty and God bless the State of Massachusetts and it's legislature. DN USCG Ret.
Robert Curtis February 12, 2014 at 08:16 PM
The Sex Offender Registry is a LIVING DEATH it is Evil and it is Wrong. Why? Because at the whim of any politician looking to be re-elected they can add more and more punitive measures Ex Post-facto to the registrants requirements. Remember these citizens after doing probation, therapy and time served have a re-offense rate of only 1.9% according to the latest Department of justice report. To be for such a thing as the sex offender registry is extremely Unconstitutional. If someone is so bad they have to be on some kind of online hit-list then why are they even amongst us. Whom am I? I'm a registrant that was convicted of a misdemeanor not involving a child over 14 years ago years ago. I have been featured in OC Parenting Magazine in 2006 received a US Congressional award for community service for helping cancer patients and the homeless. I was a salon owner and hairstylist. These citizen are like me they are good citizens and parents. Don't believe the hype. Watch my presentation before the OC Supervisor on 05/08/12 (click video, scroll down to public comments I'm the first presenter: http://ocgov.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=4

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