A Connecticut town has enacted two laws establishing off-limit areas to sex offenders, drawing criticism from a civil liberties advocate and some local officials.
The Day of New London reports that the ordinances in Montville create safety zones for children and senior citizens. The areas are marked by signs and are intended to keep registered sex offenders from properties owned and leased by the town such as the senior center, senior buses, parks, playgrounds, beaches and sports fields.
Backers of the restrictions say the safety zones put registered sex offenders on notice that the town is watching them.
"These are not only child safety zones and senior safety zones, these are comfort zones," Town Councilor Billy Caron said. "This is part of our job to protect our citizens."
Andrew Schneider, executive director of the state American Civil Liberties Union, said Wednesday that the restrictions unfairly lump all sex offenders together and could serve to banish people who already have paid for their crimes.
"There's no rationale behind any of this," he said. "It tramples on basic fundamental rights. It seems to be this sort of baseless fear."
Mayor Ronald K. McDaniel Jr. said the two zones would not include private property and exceptions were established for sex offenders to enter a municipal building or school to vote, pick up a family member or have a parent-teacher conference.
Councilor Dana McFee has opposed the child and senior safety zones, calling them "feel-good" ordinances that are unenforceable and a waste of time.
And Councilor Rosetta Jones, a former warden at the state Department of Correction, says it will be difficult to identify sex offenders. She said she would rather see the town focus on other issues.
"I think the resources would be better spent if we were to provide education and public programs and conversations with parents and students about how to keep them safe," Jones said. "That would be a lot more effective."