Friday, October 28, 2005

Lincoln Mayor Seng calls for ordinances to restrict where sex offenders may live within city; small towns object that these ordinances will driver the pervs out to the country, as Iowa's strict laws have driven its sex perps to Nebraska; Sen Howard proposes state wide solution Offender limits gain steam WORLD-HERALD It's even more critical that Nebraska enact statewide law limiting where sex offenders may live, now that the City of Lincoln is considering such restrictions, State Sen. Gwen Howard said Tuesday.The Omaha senator's comments came after Lincoln Mayor Coleen Seng said she had asked the city's staff to draft a proposed ordinance that would restrict where sex offenders could live. If approved, it would add Lincoln to a rapidly growing list of cities and states that prohibit sex offenders from living in large areas within their boundaries. Such a law took effect in Iowa in September. South Sioux City and Dakota City, Neb., both just across the Missouri River from Sioux City, Iowa, have since enacted ordinances. Some members of the Omaha City Council have expressed interest in an ordinance, and the Sarpy County cities of Papillion, Springfield and Gretna also are considering them. "I am concerned that if Lincoln does not act, we could see a migration of sex offenders who have been affected by the laws of other communities," Seng said. "We need to do what we can to protect our children." Howard praised Lincoln for "getting on the bandwagon." But the senator said the ordinances ought not be enacted in a patchwork fashion. "It needs to be statewide, not just in urban areas and large cities. This happens in rural communities, too," she said. Howard said she would introduce a bill when the legislative session starts in January. Some other lawmakers said they thought residency restrictions are an ineffectual way to deal with sex offenders. State Sen. Carol Hudkins of Malcolm said a Lincoln ordinance most likely would push sex offenders from there into the small neighboring towns in her district. But she said she didn't think such a law would prevent predatory behavior or that one could pass the Legislature. State Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha said he would oppose residency restrictions. He said such laws make pariahs of people who have paid their penalty under the law. Communities will be no safer if offenders are pushed underground. The laws "are an overreaction, politically motivated and counterproductive," Chambers said. "They do not protect children; they have nothing to do with protecting children." Lincoln's mayor agreed that questions remain about such a law, including which offenders should be covered and what places should be protected. Iowa's law bars anyone convicted of a sexual offense against a minor from living within 2,000 feet of schools or child care centers. Some communities also are banning offenders from areas near parks, libraries and playgrounds. Lincoln Police Chief Tom Casady said the proposed ordinance needs to be thought through so it doesn't lead to unintended consequences. Among factors to consider are the potential for state action, the effects of Lincoln restrictions on the rest of Lancaster County and the effects of restrictions on sex offenders living in group homes or treatment facilities in the city. Casady said that if he had his way, there would be no sex offenders living in Lincoln. The city has 426 registered sex offenders in residence, including 197 offenders classified as Level 3, the most dangerous. Casady said 57 sex offenders are at the Lincoln Regional Center, which has the state's only treatment program for adult sex offenders.

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