Sunday, February 17, 2008

Highland Village May Restrict Sex Offenders Residency

An ordinance restricting Highland Village residency for convicted sex offenders was discussed during the City Council meeting on Tuesday.

Highland Village Chief of Police Ed O’Bara presented a potential sex offender ordinance. It states that registered sex offenders may not reside within a specific distance where youths under 17 years old commonly gather. Included in the list of places with restricted areas are public parks, city park trails, private and public schools, registered day care centers and video arcades.

“I think we need to follow the lead of our boardering communities,” O’Bara said. “We can bring attention to it, then hopefully someone at a state level can consider the issue and bring it for legislative consideration.” Also, residency rules help make residents feel safe, he said in his presentation.

Part of the discussion included determining the perimeters where registered sex offenders would be restricted from living. O’Bara presented geographic restriction areas of the city corresponding to 1,000-, 1,500- or 2,000-foot buffer limits.

According to data, Copper Canyon and Corinth’s sex offender ordinances prohibit registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of areas where youth commonly gather. In Flower Mound and Lewisville, the restricted distance is 1,500 feet, and in Argyle, Carrollton, Little Elm, Roanoke, The Colony and Trophy Club the distance is 1,000 feet from areas where youths gather.

Denton, Double Oak, Frisco, Hickory Creek and Lake Dallas do not have a sex offender ordinance. Cities that don’t have an ordinance must follow state law, which sets a 1,000-foot limit.

Currently, there are three registered sex offenders living in Highland Village.

Some common exceptions, which police say are common around the state, are: if the person established residency prior to the ordinance; if the person is a minor; if the person was a minor at the time the offense was committed; or if the protected premises was opened after the person established residency.

Highland Village Mayor Dianne Costa’s concern focused on registered sex offenders coming to the city.

“I recognize that we need to look at what other communities are doing. Yet I think it’s prudent upon this council to look at statistics and how they relate to sex offenders,” she said. “And so we want to be cautious, yet we don’t want to impose any false sense of security. I think we have to be diligent with the care of our children at all times — regardless of a distance that we would impose on sex offenders registered in Highland Village.”

The Highland Village City Council recommended that staff prepare a sex offender ordinance for consideration at a future date.

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