Proposed P’burg law creates ‘pedophile-free’ districts

October 05, 2005

The Express-Times

PHILLIPSBURG — Sex offenders living in town could soon be looking for
new places to call home.

Town Councilman James Shelly plans to propose legislation at the end of
October banning convicted sex offenders from living near places where
children congregate.

Shelly said he plans to base the “pedophile-free zones” on a bill
recently passed in Hamilton Township, N.J.

Hamilton Township is the hometown of Megan Kanka, the 7-year-old whose
rape and murder by a convicted sex offender in 1994 spurred the passage
of Megan’s Law.

The Hamilton Township law bars anyone convicted of a sex offense against
a child from living within 2,500 feet of schools, parks and playgrounds
in the Mercer County community.

Shelly said he would expand Phillipsburg’s ordinance to include
recreation centers like the Joseph H. Firth Youth Center.

“Basically, they shouldn’t be near children,” Shelly said.

Shelly said the Hamilton Township law grandfathered in sex offenders
living within the zones when the law was enacted. Shelly said he would
not include that provision in his proposed legislation.

Under New Jersey’s Megan’s law, paroled pedophiles and other sex
offenders must register their names and addresses with state police for
their lifetime.

Shelly said enforcement could begin when a sex offender registers at the
county level, but said follow-up enforcement could come from code
enforcement. The councilman said he did not know how he will handle
moving sex offenders who may live within the zones now.

Over 25 registered sex offenders are living in Phillipsburg, according to
the state police Sex Offender Internet Registry.

Shelly said council has a responsibility to protect all Phillipsburg
residents, and the ordinance would be an extension of that protection.

“I don’t think we can wait any longer to protect our children,” Shelly
said. “Just knowing that a registered sex offender lives in your
neighborhood — that’s a parent’s nightmare.”

Shelly said Hamilton Township’s law hasn’t been tested in court, but the
town cannot wait to see if the ordinance passes a legal challenge.

“That one seems clean and neat,” Shelly said of Hamilton Township’s law.
“I don’t think we can wait any longer I think we’d all feel a terrible
loss in the community if we don’t enact this soon.”

In other business, Mayor Harry Wyant told council Norfolk-Southern
Railroad officials have given verbal agreement for an easement to work on
the historic Morris Canal Arch.

The arch sits on a Norfolk-Southern Railroad right of way and, until
recently, town officials were unable to acquire an easement.

Wyant said he is getting the easement put in writing and will send copies
to the state Department of Transportation to ensure the $300,000 grant
awarded for the arch work is not lost.

Shelly said the easement agreement is good news for the town.

“I think it’s important we move as quickly as we can,” Shelly said. “It’s
a marvel, if anybody has been down there, it’s amazing.”

© 2005

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