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Thread: Planning for sex offenders

  1. #1
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    Planning for sex offenders

    I am interested in what US cities and towns are doing in the realm of urban planning regarding sex offenders or pedophiles. Since president Clinton signed the Megan law that allows us to locate where these persons locate, it would seem that there would be a body of work concerning how planners deal with this issue. However, I cannot find it. Interested in what your town is doing and/or links to resources, papers, books, etc.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian ursus's avatar
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    Do you mean is there zoning - for example - that would prohibit a person on the sex-offender list from living in a certain area? There are zoning regs in some cities that regulate and restrict housing for people who are in programs "in-lieu of incarceration", but that's different.

    I think trying to regulate where people - not in the "in-lieu" of programs, but just people who are required to be on the sex offender lists through zoning would be un-constitutional. The system monitors them through laws like the one you've cited here and requires them to disclose where they live. Can or should we then as land use authorities say "not here" beyond what the penal system has already done? I don't think so.
    "...I would never try to tick Hink off. He kinda intimidates me. He's quite butch, you know." - Maister

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    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    It is a much more federal / state type of law than a local law, and therefore in all areas I have ever dealt with, it isn't directly discussed. There is really no reason to. Federal and State laws dictate where sex offenders can and cannot live. Zoning does not need to be a part of that.
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    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by natewoo View post
    it would seem that there would be a body of work concerning how planners deal with this issue. However, I cannot find it. Interested in what your town is doing and/or links to resources, papers, books, etc.
    Umm, we regulate uses, not people that use them. That's up the the local authorities. As Urus stated, there are rules governing housing for certain types of people, but that may be standard on a lease agreement or affordable housing agreement. Many state's sex offender laws are too burdening at best (refer to said example of typical 18 year old senior in hs having to register as a sex offender because he was having sex with said 15 or 16 year hs gf, which happens a lot). How fair is that? Yes, i think we need tough laws to prevent the real offenders from being near where children play or congregate, however this is another example of an "unfunded" mandate. Unless state government coughs up the dough to heavily enforce rules to where sex offenders must live (or tax payers pony up additional funds to ensure the monitoring of them), local authorities are at the mercy of ever shrinking dollars and planners simply need to stick to the regulation of uses.
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  5. #5
    Cyburbian ursus's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by CPSURaf View post
    Umm, we regulate uses, not people that use them. .
    Perfectly stated, Raf. Perfectly.
    "...I would never try to tick Hink off. He kinda intimidates me. He's quite butch, you know." - Maister

  6. #6
    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
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    not zoning

    My town requires hotels/motels that house more than 3 registered sex offenders to apply for, receive and post a license stating such.

    Additionally, we have a local law (not zoning) that prohibits registered sex offenders from residing within 1500 feet of certain uses, such as schools and registered daycare facilities.
    All these years the people said he’s actin’ like a kid.
    He did not know he could not fly, so he did.
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  7. #7
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    legal or land use?

    This would seem very complex requiring a great deal of legal information. For instance, do you treat the 50 year old guy who peed in an alley 20 years ago the same as the rapist just relased from prison today? This is a legal issue and not a land use decision. It is not one I, as an urban planner, want to wade into.
    Last edited by landplanner; 08 Jul 2010 at 4:36 PM.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian TerraSapient's avatar
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    At my previous job, one tool we used for making land use decisions regarding sex offenders was geopopulating the locations of registered sex offenders into a land use map using ArcGIS. This provided policy makers and law enforcers with data that helped them make more informed decisions. They could quickly and efficiently find any registered sex offenders who were living too close to schools, or if their property was extensive, whether or not their actual home was within the boundary or just the corner of their property. Sex offenses could be compared geographically to a map a registered offenders within moments of them being reported. Proposed zoning changes could be examined in comparison to the number of registered sex offenders in the area. etc, etc, etc. There were a lot of applications that could be applied to this database.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian JimPlans's avatar
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    There were some controversies in San Francisco regarding Jessica's Law, where a convicted sex offender can't live within 2000 feet of a school, park, or other places where children may congregate. In SF, this excludes just about every residential unit in the city. California also has issues with sex offender homelessness and with sex offenders concentrating in areas that don't have Jessica's Law issues (like Antioch).

    AFAIK, the profession of planning hasn't had to deal with this issue directly. It's more of a law enforcement/social work problem. There has been some research on the subject (check out Sex offender residency and spatial equity for a taste of the research in this area).

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Joe Iliff's avatar
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    You might be interested to read an article by Dwight Merriam, a lawyer, about sex offender residency restrictions. It is available here: http://www.ccapa.org/pdf/newsletters...nning_1q08.pdf
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  11. #11
    The City I live in did an estensive study and came up with a rule that sex offenders cannot live within 750 feet of a school, park, playground, day care center or recreational trail. They wanted a 1,000-foot zones but that would have pretty much eliminated all but a few tiny pockets and probably would have been struck down by the courts.

    Its a huge issue for the City because its becoming known as a haven for ex-offenders. There are certain landlords that rent to them because they get state money to do so. Many of them are grandfathered in (the ordinance was passed in 2007) so we have some blocks with huge concentrations of offenders. In some cases it has created a vacuum where nobody wants to live or open up a business.

    The thing is that these laws do nothing to make people safer, they just create the illusion of doing so. Most offenders know their victims. They like to paint all offenders as the dirty pervert lurking the the bushes at the playground when that is usually not the case. These laws give parents a false sense of security and probably are worse than just not having any residency restrictions at all.
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  12. #12
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Joe Iliff View post
    You might be interested to read an article by Dwight Merriam, a lawyer, about sex offender residency restrictions. It is available here: http://www.ccapa.org/pdf/newsletters...nning_1q08.pdf
    Merriam is most often right on target.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Repo Man View post
    The City I live in did an estensive study and came up with a rule that sex offenders cannot live within 750 feet of a school, park, playground, day care center or recreational trail. They wanted a 1,000-foot zones but that would have pretty much eliminated all but a few tiny pockets and probably would have been struck down by the courts.

    Its a huge issue for the City because its becoming known as a haven for ex-offenders. There are certain landlords that rent to them because they get state money to do so. Many of them are grandfathered in (the ordinance was passed in 2007) so we have some blocks with huge concentrations of offenders. In some cases it has created a vacuum where nobody wants to live or open up a business.

    The thing is that these laws do nothing to make people safer, they just create the illusion of doing so. Most offenders know their victims. They like to paint all offenders as the dirty pervert lurking the the bushes at the playground when that is usually not the case. These laws give parents a false sense of security and probably are worse than just not having any residency restrictions at all.
    I pretty much agree with what you are saying, that most perps knew their victims (their own children, nephews/nieces, neighbors and so forth). You also have some cases where such branded people were simply caught 'doing it' with their same-class high-school sweethearts (as in the guy was a couple of months over the age of consent a his GF was a month or two under it). Also, the true bad guys NEVER get over those urges and the best way to keep the really bad ones from doing bad things is to keep them separated from society (as in keep them in prison) and setting up these, for lack of a better term, 'leper colonies' does nothing to keep anyone safe and only disrupts things for the innocent nearby residents and property owners.

    Is there an epidemic of pedophilia and other sex criminality? Not that I can really sense, only that evolutionary changes in technology are making things more visible and the bad guys easier to catch - the proportion of the population susceptible to doing such things is pretty much the same as always. Only years ago, as in when I was growing up, everyone just knew enough to shy away from 'that' house....

    Mike

  14. #14
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    In NH the courts have overturned ordinances that restrict where offenders live, as they have not been able to prove that the ordinances do anything to actually improve safety for children.

    Link from NHPR on the court decision
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  15. #15
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    Residency Restrictions

    I've written a couple of longer pieces on the subject.

    http://ssrn.com/abstract=1395347

    and one I have put up on http://dwightmerriam.blogspot.com

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