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City considers restricting where sexual offenders can live

A proposal to limit where sexual offenders can reside in the city of Hudson was on the agenda for discussion at the July 5 meeting of the City Council's Public Safety Committee.

District 1 Alderman Randy Morrissette II called for an ordinance similar to one adopted in Taylors Falls, Minn., two months ago after police received new reports of a man exposing himself to women on the streets of Hudson.

Around the same time, residents of a town of Hudson neighborhood were concerned about a registered sexual offender moving into the area.

The Taylors Falls ordinance prohibits certain classes of convicted sexual offenders from residing within 2,000 feet of any school, licensed day care center, park or playground, or within 1,000 feet of a designated school bus stop, church facility or other places where children are known to gather.

The ordinance applies to repeat sexual offenders, those who use physical violence and those who prey on children.

The Hudson City Council referred the sexual offender issue to the Public Safety Committee at its June 19 meeting after City Attorney Catherine Munkittrick asked if the council wanted her to proceed with drafting an ordinance. She recommended that the committee look into the pros and cons of restricting where sexual offenders can live.

Munkittrick said the Wisconsin Department of Corrections is opposed to such ordinances and provided council members with documents the department had forwarded to her in support of its position.

One of the documents was a January 2006 statement from the Iowa County Attorneys Association detailing 14 reasons why the association opposes to residency restrictions for sexual offenders.

The Iowa county attorneys maintain there is no correlation between residency restrictions and reducing sex offenses against children.

That is because 80 to 90 percent of sex crimes against children are committed by a relative or acquaintance of the victim who isn't impeded by residency restrictions, they said.

The Iowa county attorneys said residency restrictions cause offenders to become homeless, to change addresses without notifying authorities, to register false addresses, or to simply disappear.

Sexual offenders on parole or probation already are monitored and must have their living arrangements approved, the county attorneys noted.

Hudson would be the first Wisconsin municipality to have an ordinance restricting where sexual offenders can live if the City Council chooses to adopt one.

Munkittrick indicated that she hadn't drafted a proposed ordinance yet because she wasn't certain that the council wanted her to proceed. She also indicated she would need direction on specifics of the ordinance if the council wants her to draft one.

She suggested that the Public Safety Committee make a recommendation on whether the city should adopt residency restrictions for sexual offenders.

The motion by District 3 Alderman Paul Radermacher to refer the issue to the Public Safety Committee carried on a 5-1 vote. Radermacher chairs the committee. The two other committee members are Morrissette and District 4 Alderman Lee Wyland.

District 2 Alderman Dennis O'Connell opposed sending the issue to the Public Safety Committee.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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