Locals’ sex offender penalty bills vetoed

By KENYA WOODARD
Staff Writer

October 05, 2005

PALM COAST – City council members on Tuesday approved an ordinance
banning sex offenders from community centers and city parks — but
stopped short of adding a clause that would have prohibited offenders
from living within 2,000 feet of where children gather.

Mayor James Canfield, who proposed the clause, told the council the city
should increase the limits as other Florida cities have done or are
considering.

“I can’t see how our neighboring community have these restrictions while
we have 1,000 feet,” he said.

State law currently imposes a 1,000-foot barrier.

Palm Coast is home to 32 sex offenders, and all are registered with the
city and regularly tracked, said Capt. Mark Carmen of the Flagler County
Sheriff’s Office.

According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Web site, the
crimes of the offenders, all men, range from rape to using the Internet
to solicit sex from a child.

City Attorney William Colbert cautioned against increasing the limit to
2,000 feet, saying the city should instead adopt a separate sex offender
ordinance that would address the increased limit

“They really are two different ordinances,” he said. “This ordinance is
designed to protect the city on city property.”

Councilman William Venne said he supported passing the ordinance as it
was written, but Vice-Mayor Mary DiStefano said she wanted an
all-inclusive ordinance.

Passing a more restrictive ordinance doesn’t guarantee safety, said
Councilman Jon Netts. “The concern I have is when you pass a more
restrictive ordinance, you may inadvertently produce a level of comfort
that is unwarranted,” he said.

The deaths of Jessica Lundsford, 9, of Homosassa and Sarah Michelle
Lunde, 13, of Ruskin, both believed killed by sex offenders, have
prompted cities across Florida to pass sex offender ordinances. Local
governments, however, may want focus more on keeping tabs on sex
offenders whereabouts rather than passing laws that could potentially
squeeze them out of their cities and out of sight of law enforcement,
said Alessandra Meetze, communication director for the American Civil
Liberties Union Florida.

“(Local governments) have been prompted by these horrible crimes,” she
said. “But we have to look at the root of the problem, which is keeping
track of where these people are.”

© 2005 News-Journal Corporation

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