Sex offender ordinance debate continues

NewsChannel 10

Amarillo, Texas - At first glance it may sound like a good idea, to lawfully keep sex offenders away from kids and the places they play. But after a closer look, some Amarillo City Commissioners are having second thoughts.

The proposed ordinance prevents offenders with convictions involving a minor, from residing within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, registered day cares, and other places children congregate, but some say the measure could bring unintended consequences.

The debate continues among Amarillo City Commissioners over whether sex offenders should be limited on where they can live.

After two months of research and a vote on the issue looming ahead, some are starting to think it's not such a good plan after all.

City Commissioner Ellen Robertson-Green says, "When I first heard about this ordinance I thought, great idea. We want to protect our children. But then the more I looked into it, the more I thought, there are so many unintended consequences and so many unintended ways that sexual predators can get to children. Simply eliminating them from parks and schools is just going to set up a false sense of security."

A false sense of security that would make parents believe their neighborhood is safe, since offenders can't live there.

But experts point out another false sense of security this ordinance creates.

April Leming with The Bridge Children's Advocacy Center explains, "99% of the time, the people who hurt and abuse children, live in their own home, are related to them, or are friends of the family. It's not necessarily the person walking down the street in your neighborhood."

There's also a concern this proposal will create clusters of offenders in certain neighborhoods.

City Commissioners tell us according to their research, this ordinance will only leave about 36% of Amarillo left for sex offenders to live. They say in the end, it's not even that much, because a lot of these areas include vacant lots, business districts, and even the airport."

But some commissioners stand by the ordinance.

City Commissioner Jim Simms says, "Remember, these are sexual offenders and they have a high recidivism rate to do it again. I simply am one that thinks you don't put the fox across the street to try and guard the hen house."

In fact, experts tell us sex offenders attack anywhere between 75 to 150 victims before they are actually caught.

Simms says, "If it will protect one child from this horrendous act, I think it's worth it."

City Commissioners are set to vote on the proposed ordinance Tuesday. If it passes, they are required to take a second vote the following week.