Hillsborough County Commission may increase buffer zone for sex offenders by Mitch E. Perry

11/15/06

The Hillsborough County Commission today voted unanimously to study the possibility of banning sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of schools, parks and day care centers – 1,500 feet farther than required by state law.

The motion was sponsored by County Commissioner Ken Hagen, who acknowledged that there are many questions that need to be answered before installing such a ban – (roll tape#1 o.q.�do they have to be grandfathered in�)

The idea of expanding a buffer zone to exile sex offenders was originally brought up locally by the Tampa City Council last month – which also is discussing a 2,500 foot buffer. Commission Hagen has said that unless the County follows suit, unincorporated areas could be a destination for such offenders.

However the Tampa Tribune reported last week that the 2,500 foot buffer proposal could force some sex offenders to live in retirement areas of the county, sine it would force them from the more developed portions of Brandon Town N Country and Westchase.

Commissioner Jim Norman suggested that those concerns be part of what the County Administrator and Staff need to consider before making their recommendations (roll tape#2 o.q.� for both�)

With recent high profile child abductions in Florida in the last couple of years, there would seemingly be little popular dissent against increasing such buffer zones.

But in fact, there is opposition.

Tampa psychologist Robert Wright’s job is to evaluate sex offenders – something he’s done for the last 25 years. Also the father of 2 young girls, he agrees that the purpose of the proposal is worthy, but says in fact he doesn’t believe it will be effective.(roll tape#3 o.q.�in any particular way�)

Wright says in fact such laws make it harder to monitor such sex offenders (roll tape# 4 o.q.�It’s more difficult�)

Joanie Stewart is a licensed clinical social worker who works in both Tampa and Riverview. She’s also against the proposal, calling it a ‘feel good’ law that won’t protect children (roll tape#5 o.q.�serious problem of Housing�)

Ken Hagen’s resolution calling for the County Staff to research the possibility of extending the ban of sex offenders living within schools, parks and day care centers was approved 5-0, with Commissioners Storms and Castor not present.

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