Sunday, August 30, 2009

Task force criticizes proposed living restrictions on Broward sex offenders

A county task force is criticizing a proposal that would severely limit where sexual offenders can live in Broward.

County commissioners have been exploring a ban on sexual offenders from living within 2,500 feet of schools, parks, playgrounds, day care centers and school bus stops. The ordinance would apply only to the small part of Broward that is not in any city, but has become a flashpoint in a larger debate that such restrictions leave little place for sexual offenders to live.

Broadview Park is a small working class neighborhood no larger than a square mile, yet it is home to almost 100 sexual offenders. That’s because the neighborhood is one of the few remaining places for them to live in light of limits set by 24 of the county’s 31 cities.

According to the report distributed to commissioners last week, living restrictions can force sexual offenders to become homeless and thus harder to monitor. The task force said it found no evidence to indicate that the laws reduce abuse or prevent criminals from committing new offenses.

“Broward County commissioners are faced with an unenviable conundrum,” the task force concluded. “To eliminate the clustering of sex offenders in the unincorporated areas would require passing an ordinance similar to those in the majority of municipalities. The likely result of such an ordinance will be to increase the number of homeless and transient sex offenders throughout the county.”

The report concluded: “Clearly the best intentions do not always translate into the best practices.”

Commissioner John Rodstrom proposed the living restrictions earlier this year and plans to press ahead. He said the task force was skewed toward the viewpoint of sex offenders rather than the concerns of residents.

The commission will decide Tuesday whether to set a public hearing for Sept. 22 on Rodstrom’s proposal.

Commissioners in April issued an emergency ordinance that bars any more offenders from moving into Broadview Park or two smaller unincorporated neighborhoods. With 1,275 registered sex offenders in Broward, the demand for neighborhoods like Broadview Park is great.

The task force concluded that a 2,500-foot buffer zone would leave no homes available for sex offenders in unincorporated Broward.

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