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Thread: Zoning laws that bar pedophiles

  1. #1
    Cyburbian dandy_warhol's avatar
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    Zoning laws that bar pedophiles

    there is an article in the NYT today about a township in NJ that has developed "child safety zones" in which sex offenders cannot reside. do you think such measures are effective? constitutional? necessary? a great idea?

    article: Zoning Laws that Bar Pedophiles
    In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. -Martin Luther King Jr.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    You know, there may be something to this.

    Why stop at sex offenders?

    How about any felony conviction (or three time misdemeandor conviction) can disqualify anyone from living in the entire community. It would almost be like banishing someone in the old days. They just have to go somewhere else to live.

    This would apply to drunk driving, assault, breaking and entering, hate crimes, road rage, etc.

    House buyers would have to get a permit to buy, and a background check with law enforcement agencies could be readily done. Same thing for renters - anyone renting to convicted criminals could also be convicted, and the third time, they lose their ability to live in and rent out property in the community. If rental of a house were involved, they should forfeit the house, too.

    Since most criminals are repeat offenders, it might save on incarceration costs in the community if they are no longer around to commit crimes in the area. Word would spread. It would be a more crime free area, and would attract law abiding citizens.

    It is not discriminatory solely against sex offenders.

    I'm for it. Why didn't someone think of this before? We are apparently just soft on crime.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    I'm not sure how a criminal act or the state of being guilty of a criminal act can be applied at any level through zoning legislation.

    Zoning is the regulation of the use and/or design of the land. Unless there is a well developed definition of resident or family that doesn't vioalte fair housing I don't see how it can work.
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  4. #4
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by boiker View post
    I'm not sure how a criminal act or the state of being guilty of a criminal act can be applied at any level through zoning legislation.

    Zoning is the regulation of the use and/or design of the land. Unless there is a well developed definition of resident or family that doesn't vioalte fair housing I don't see how it can work.
    dittos.

    And Streck that is some good sarcasm.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  5. #5
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    I smell a good arguement for a Fair Housing violation.

    The criminal process does enough as far as location post release is concerned (not necessarily punishment); they often have restrictions on proximity to schools and such. In addition, people can find out if they have a convicted sex offender through state databases. Zoning laws are not a substitution for good parental due-dillegence.

    I don't want somebody next door to me that has been convicted of residence burglary or vehicular burglary, maybe I should work on a zoning law for that.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  6. #6
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Hmmm.....

    We can regulate business/property that draws in crime (strip clubs and pawn shops....but not actual offenders of the worst kind of crime (don't murderers get more respect in prison??) Very little difference between this and regulating stronger sentences for drug dealers near a school or laws that allow drug dealers property to be taken. Anyway, if someone is convicted as a felon and loses their right to vote.....why not in certain narrow cases, their right to live within a certain distance of a school, church, dance school, playground or daycare center?? I do think that banning them from an entire city won't work in most courts....kinda like exclusionary zoning.....but, if studies are done that can back it up....(anyone know of any out there?), why not give it a try. I think most courts would "help" us determine the difference between a pedophile and some other "offender" that doesn't warrant such restrictions.

    Some problems:

    Kids live everywhere! I see rich communities setting up these laws and poor neighborhoods paying the price. Every community should have a place for offenders, but by so narrowly defining where they can be....could create pockets of offenders and.....is it a good thing to get them together like that??? (again, any studies on this?) It won't be possible to keep every child away from every bad person.

    Maybe if laws were narrowly limited to keeping child sex predators away, using a specific definition?

    I think Miami Beach recently passed a law restricting sex offenders from living in the community by making the distances so great that there are no places left to go.....anyone know about this?? Maybe it was a different town in S. Florida....?

    Equal Protection: Does it apply when one party has had the right to vote taken away? Anyone hear of a court case about this? Maybe some attorney out there could provide a take on this??
    Last edited by The One; 27 Nov 2006 at 7:31 PM. Reason: Slight Malfunction
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  7. #7
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    Sarcasm? What sarcasm??

    Yes, as I was first thinking of it and then starting to write it, I wasn't sure what direction I would be going, but look at some of the responses:

    "Fair Housing Act" problems? Well, not any more than prohibiting child molesters from living in certain areas.

    "How can a criminal act be applied at any level through zoning administration?"
    Well, isn't it now being applied with the banning of sex offenders in certain areas?

    "There needs to be a better definition of 'family?'" Why? If there is only one person involved in the criminal act, then there is only that one person that is barred from living in the community. The rest of the family can stay, or go with the offender to another location.

    And why stop at putting just sex offenders on state data bases? What about other offenders?

    What if the offender does not apply for purchase or rental in his name? Can he still be prevented from living in the community? I don't know. What if he ever applied for work, or driver license renewal, loan, job application, tax forms, or whatever that requires him to list a residence, would he be caught in the same data base?

    I don't know if this could really be done - just tossing it out there for discussion.

    What a boon to society if it could be made to work.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Streck View post
    What a boon to society if it could be made to work.
    I don't think it is a boon at all. It concentrates the criminals in one area. Depending on the crime, the recitivism rate can be next to nothing or very high (I believe child molestors have a high recitvism rate). Distance requirements for certain things have been held up as valid by the courts.

    I think it is a tough situation. Of course the general public wants to protect children from predators, but at the same time, when we create regulations that requires them to reside x distance from a school, park, church, daycare, etc, we start to group them together. The end result is an inevitable situation where a neighborhood ends up with more then their fair share of child predators which has far reaching impacts on the areas that tend to get a lot of registered offenders. I think a far better approach is to increase the penalties for those with multiple victims or repeat offenders. The penalty also must include counseling and mental treatment programs, long after they are released. I don't think too many people would have heartburn over repeat child predators being locked up for 20 plus years or more.

  9. #9
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Streck View post
    Sarcasm? What sarcasm??
    Well, I thought that your statements were sarcasm because the ideas and concepts you put forward are absurb, at best.

    Zoning is not a proper tool for enforcement of these measures and having to get background checks from the police in order to buy a property in a certain community is a police state.

    The criminal act of an individual is not a land use. That is why we have criminal codes and police departments.
    Last edited by mendelman; 28 Nov 2006 at 10:49 AM.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Streck, I'm looking at it from application of the law.

    A single person, regardless of the criminal past constitutes a family under many, if not most zoning ordinances.

    Therefore, excluding his/her right to live in a community would entail dangerous changes to your ordinances definition of family. (you know, criminals are not a protected class under the FHA---so maybe it could work).

    A slippery slope and a management nightmare occurs if City's have to maintain and enforce...through zoning...criminal penalty. Do we bar sex offenders from working in the community? Shopping? Driving through?
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  11. #11
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    Iowa has state law that prohibits sex offenders from living with in 2000 ft of a school or day care provider. Some cities have added parks, libraries and such. Many in law enforcement do not like the law because it forces the offenders underground. It is also problematic because some on the list may have been 17 and had a 13 yo girl friend, and now cannot find a place to live....
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
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  12. #12
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    Interesting point Cololi...

    What came to mind is the current environmental justice debate in American cities. Why are the garbage transfer stations, train yards, and impound facilities placed in areas where the poorer live? Similarly limiting areas where sex offenders can live, and more so strictly limiting it so there is a concentration in an area where underpriviledged live only puts their children and selves more at risk.

    I have never been a supporter of using zoning laws to make up for a lack of policing.
    @GigCityPlanner

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    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    I agree with many in here -

    Zoning is a regulation of the use of property - the property owner is responsible to follow those laws, but it's the property that is subject to the regulation

    How would this be enforced? The Police Department sends the list of predators to the code enforcement department and then they boot the person out of there? The Town does not track leases and house sales in this manner; but sure, the parole officer does. Yes, we mix department authorities all the time in local government, but I don't feel comfortable about this one.

    I think the Police have their police power and zoning has its own police power and this mixes it up too much...

    as much as I fear pedophiles just like anyone else, I just don't think zoning is the place for every social engineeirng feat imaginable - and I think it's getting too Orwellian/Brazil-like, which is creepy...

    we know that pedophiles may not be "cured" but if they have paid their debt to society, stay in counseling, then what else can we expect?

    I would, however, like to zone out jerks, can we do that?

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    The City of Franklin, WI recently passed an ordinance of similar intent. Basically the only part of the City unaffected is very rural and within a few clicks of 2 major landfills....

  15. #15
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Yup....

    Quote Originally posted by luckless pedestrian View post
    I agree with many in here -

    Zoning is a regulation of the use of property - the property owner is responsible to follow those laws, but it's the property that is subject to the regulation

    How would this be enforced? The Police Department sends the list of predators to the code enforcement department and then they boot the person out of there? The Town does not track leases and house sales in this manner; but sure, the parole officer does. Yes, we mix department authorities all the time in local government, but I don't feel comfortable about this one.

    I think the Police have their police power and zoning has its own police power and this mixes it up too much...

    as much as I fear pedophiles just like anyone else, I just don't think zoning is the place for every social engineeirng feat imaginable - and I think it's getting too Orwellian/Brazil-like, which is creepy...

    we know that pedophiles may not be "cured" but if they have paid their debt to society, stay in counseling, then what else can we expect?

    I would, however, like to zone out jerks, can we do that?
    All good concerns.

    I think it might be worth a shot trying to do this against the worst type of predator (should be defined....multiple offender against children??...other definition....) I think it may be worth a few headaches if the courts would allow it in this VERY narrow circumstance.....but I agree that it could be taken too far, if the courts don't help narrow the focus of the intent. It would be nice to have the parole officers take over the administrative headaches of this task, using local GIS to map and bust bad guy's.

    Brazil was a great movie.....I think I'll rent it again soon....or buy it if I can find it for $10
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  16. #16
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    cololi:
    I don't think it is a boon at all. It concentrates the criminals in one area.
    My concept would be to ban the violator from the whole community. That does NOT concentrate them in one area. It frees them to live in any other community they want.

    cololi:
    I don't think too many people would have heartburn over repeat child predators being locked up for 20 plus years or more.
    Now, that to me seems cruel and unreasonable. And quite an expense to the community. The federal courts have said the community must provide all medical care needed while incarcerated! It seems better to ban them after a meaningful experience in a jail cell.

    mendalman:
    Zoning is not a proper tool for enforcement of these measures and having to get background checks from the police in order to buy a property in a certain community is a police state.
    Apparently zoning is already used to regulate how close someone (violators) can live near a school, etc.


    I'm just throwing out ideas for discussion by the planning community. Comments welcomed.

    Theoretically, if it COULD be enacted, would the community crime rate go up or down?
    Would it be a deterrent? Would it be a protection for the community?
    What if all surrounding communities had it but yours?

  17. #17
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    cololi:
    I don't think it is a boon at all. It concentrates the criminals in one area.
    Streck:
    My concept would be to ban the violator from the whole community. That does NOT concentrate them in one area. It frees them to live in any other community they want.
    If you are the leader of the Town next door, what do you do when your community passes this? You pass one too because you sure do not want them in your town either. It goes on and on until the get pushed out to the rural areas.

    Quote Originally posted by Streck
    Apparently zoning is already used to regulate how close someone (violators) can live near a school, etc.
    In Iowa it's not zoning, its a State Law.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  18. #18
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Streck View post
    cololi:

    My concept would be to ban the violator from the whole community. That does NOT concentrate them in one area. It frees them to live in any other community they want.
    Crime is not a local issue. It is regional. I would guess that the courts would find any sort of measure that prohibited someone who has served their sentence from living in an entire town, city, etc. to be unconstitutional. As Giff said, it just pushed them to another town.



    Now, that to me seems cruel and unreasonable. And quite an expense to the community. The federal courts have said the community must provide all medical care needed while incarcerated! It seems better to ban them after a meaningful experience in a jail cell.
    I don't see how someone getting sentenced to twenty years because the molested mulitple children or were repeate offenders is in anyway cruel or unusual. The point is the high recitivism rate. Child molesters tend to commit the same crime again. I don't remember what my source is, but I recall reading this in a legal journal. they are morelikely to spend that amount of time in jail because ofthis, so why not lock them up and try to give them treatment? is it expensive? yes. Is it worth preventing kids from being molested? yes. I would much rather see my law enforcement tax dollars go to this type of thing than to arresting someone smoking a joint walking down the street.

    Quote Originally posted by Streck View post
    Theoretically, if it COULD be enacted, would the community crime rate go up or down?
    Would it be a deterrent? Would it be a protection for the community?
    What if all surrounding communities had it but yours?
    I don't think it would. It seems the news is full of sexual predator stories. Being forced out of your community is not necessarily a deterent, unless you are a figure head. I would bet that most convicted child molesters would not want to live in a community where they were caught anyway.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally posted by boiker View post
    I'm not sure how a criminal act or the state of being guilty of a criminal act can be applied at any level through zoning legislation.

    Zoning is the regulation of the use and/or design of the land. Unless there is a well developed definition of resident or family that doesn't vioalte fair housing I don't see how it can work.
    no offence personally but i dont care if its not fair. as a high schooler, i want to be able to go running after school and not be completly nervous im going to get shoved into someones care. because right now, i wont go running alone, since almost all the sex offenders in our town live w/in a 3 mile radius of the high school. u cant say thats just coincidence. its not fair to us. who havent committed crimes to be worried about repeat offenders

  20. #20
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by girlinterrupted364 View post
    no offence personally but i dont care if its not fair. as a high schooler, i want to be able to go running after school and not be completly nervous im going to get shoved into someones care. because right now, i wont go running alone, since almost all the sex offenders in our town live w/in a 3 mile radius of the high school. u cant say thats just coincidence. its not fair to us. who havent committed crimes to be worried about repeat offenders
    None taken.. What my statement is about is not putting criminal enforcement in the hands of development regulators, the City Planners. Put it in the hands of the police. Issuing and enforcing penalties for violation of criminal law is the police's job, not the job of a code enforcement officer or zoning department.

    The second point of fair housing is a law setup by the Federal Government to ensure that every citizen has equal rights to obtain housing regardless of race, sex, religion, handicap, and a myriad of other conditions.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Opinion Article in my fair city's newspaper today:
    Criminal and Zoning
    Grandstanding politicans making living impossible


    weblink to article: http://www.creators.com/opinion_show...olumnsName=jsu
    CIRCLE GAME: ANTI-CRIME ZONES HURT INNOCENTS INSTEAD OF PROTECTING THEM
    Wednesday, November 29, 2006

    Highlights:
    Across the country, politicians are eager to draw magical circles of protection they claim will banish evil and keep children safe. It's an easy, cheap way of opposing what everyone opposes and supporting what everyone supports. But the resulting crazy quilt of drug-free, gun-free and molester-free zones is ineffective, sometimes counterproductive and frequently unjust.

    An official at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children warned that "these laws may give a false sense of security."
    Oddball
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  22. #22
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    Bumping this thread

    Quote Originally posted by radio village dot com

    Iowa Groups Back New Sex Offender Policies

    Iowa Groups representing police, prosecutors and victims are joining forces asking Iowa lawmakers to consider more effective measures to protect Iowans from sexual predators.
    The Iowa County Attorneys Association (ICAA), the Iowa State Sheriffs’ & Deputies’ Association (ISSDA), Prevent Child Abuse Iowa (PCA Iowa), and the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault (IowaCASA) unveiled a proposal they say will better protect children from sexual abuse.

    According to Corwin Ritchie, executive director of ICAA, the proposal features measures, which improve child safety, focusing on prevention, prosecution, education, treatment and targeted tracking.

    “Iowa experts who work to protect children from sexual predators agree that current state laws, specifically the 2000-ft. residency restriction, create a false sense of security and may actually decrease safety for children,” says Ritchie.

    Instead, the groups back creation of "child safe zones," which would ban sex offenders from sites such as schools and day care facilities.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  23. #23
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by giff57 View post
    Iowa has state law that prohibits sex offenders from living with in 2000 ft of a school or day care provider. Some cities have added parks, libraries and such. Many in law enforcement do not like the law because it forces the offenders underground. It is also problematic because some on the list may have been 17 and had a 13 yo girl friend, and now cannot find a place to live....
    Effective Jan 1, 2006, registered offenders cannot live within 1000 feet of any public/private schools in Michigan. Daycare, home schools, etc. are not included in the definition of schools. There are some exemptions, here is a slide show from the Michigan State Police that discusses the changes. It appears that very few states have a similar law.

    I agree that local zoning should not be used for this as zoning is meant to be a regulation on land, not the land owner.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    There was an article about this issue in the NY Post this weekend (cant find the link) pointing to a family who has moved all over NY as a result of the ever changing restrictions.

    The wife was a sex offender, b/c she was 18 and had a 17 y/o boyfriend 20 years ago...(or some variation of that circumstance).

  25. #25

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    Quote Originally posted by Streck View post
    You know, there may be something to this.

    Why stop at sex offenders?

    How about any felony conviction (or three time misdemeandor conviction) can disqualify anyone from living in the entire community. It would almost be like banishing someone in the old days. They just have to go somewhere else to live.

    This would apply to drunk driving, assault, breaking and entering, hate crimes, road rage, etc.

    House buyers would have to get a permit to buy, and a background check with law enforcement agencies could be readily done. Same thing for renters - anyone renting to convicted criminals could also be convicted, and the third time, they lose their ability to live in and rent out property in the community. If rental of a house were involved, they should forfeit the house, too.

    Since most criminals are repeat offenders, it might save on incarceration costs in the community if they are no longer around to commit crimes in the area. Word would spread. It would be a more crime free area, and would attract law abiding citizens.

    It is not discriminatory solely against sex offenders.

    I'm for it. Why didn't someone think of this before? We are apparently just soft on crime.
    Or perhaps, criminals can be allowed to buy/rent/pitch a tent if 65% of the community residents vote in favour of it, regardless of whether it's a Black, White, of mixed community!

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