City sex offender ordinance put on hold

Published: Feb. 15, 2012 at 3:10 AM CST|Updated: Feb. 15, 2012 at 3:19 AM CST
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NewsChannel 10

Amarillo, Texas - Today's Amarillo City Commission meeting brought an unexpected turn of events, when officials decided to put a measure to restrict where area sex offenders can live, on hold.

City officials were set to finally vote on the issue today, after months of discussion, but instead, the debate continues.

Mayor Paul Harpole says, "I think we have to further study what's going to have the most effect to protect our children. We don't want to put up an ordinance that doesn't have an effect."

As it now stands, the ordinance would restrict registered sex offenders whose convictions involve a minor, from living within 1,000 feet of any place children commonly gather.

But even after listening to yet another round of experts and doing their own extensive research, city officials still couldn't come to an agreement.

City Commissioner Dr. Brian Eades says, "I've found very consistently there's not a lot of benefit in limiting where folks can live. What really seems to be the benefit is closer monitoring."

Which is why a new suggestion was brought to the table that focuses less on where sex offenders live, and more on what they are doing.

Eades explains, "I think the idea should be that we send local officers several times a year to check up on individuals who are on the sexual offender registry to make sure they're registered and to find out what they're doing, where they're working, and who their contacts are."

Now city officials will consider this new idea, but the original ordinance will remain on the table.

Harpole says, "What we really want to do is let people know who are at a high-risk of re-offending that we are concerned, we are watching, and they better stay away from our children. We want to protect them as best we can. But it's not a magic pill that solves the problem. Parents need to be aware of who their children are with and what's going on."

City officials say the issue will be voted on in the next month or so, once all the research is done on the new idea.