Tampa won't ban sex offenders from entire City by Mitch E.Perry

WMNF Drive-Time News Friday

The Tampa City Council today backed away from a proposal to ban sex offenders from its city limits.  Instead, the Council supported a motion to maintain the current state ban of keeping of offenders 1,000 feet from any school, day care center park or playground.  They added libraries and bus stops to the list.  They also will incorporate so-called “exclusionary zones”, a provision to prohibit such offenders to be within 300 feet of places where children gather.


Following a Council meeting last month, Council members discussed possible bans of 2,500 feet, and even 3,500 feet, which would in effect ban them completely from the city of Tampa.


But after researching the constitutionality of such an Ordinance, City Attorney David Smith advised the Council such a band would simply not pass legal muster (roll tape#1 o.q.”vulnerable to challenges”)


Smith unveiled 4 different maps to the Council, showing the residential areas that would be effected, depending on the distance contemplated banning sex offenders convicted of committing crimes on children younger than 16 years old.


The last map he displayed, with a 2,500 exclusionary zone, would encompass approximately 92% of the city of Tampa’s residential areas.  In effect, complete banishment of all such offenders from city limits.


And  in terms of being truly effective, Attorney Smith told the Council that they should concentrate on sexual predators, as opposed to just sexual offenders (roll tape#2 o.q.”predators, it is”)

There are several bills pending in the state legislature which, in some cases, call for a much larger exclusionary zone than what Tampa is now proposing.  Naples Republican State Senator Burt Saunders bill would extend residency restrictions on sex offenders to the 2,500 feet zone that Councilmembers contemplated.

Attorney Smith assured the Council that his legal team will closely monitor the progress of all such legislation pending in Tallahassee. 

Councilman Sean Harrison is one of the most vocal supporters of a complete ban on sex offenders.  He said with the inclusion of 300 feet ‘exclusionary zones’, he could live with not increasing the state law – at least for now.  And he said he wanted the Tampa Police  Chief Stephen Hogue  to weigh in on how it would affect his department.  (roll tape#3 o.q.” then we don’t need to do that”)


Councilmember Frank Riddick inserted language in the proposal that would also include testimony from Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee, as well as probation and parole officers.


After the Council talked tough last month on the possibility of banning sex offenders from the City, Councilmember Linda Saul Sena did strike a note on questioning whether such a ban would truly be effective in protecting the children in Tampa. 


She said that she would host a workshop and bring experts in to testify about such bans.


But that hasn’t happened yet.  She proposed that such a discussion take place in 2 weeks time (roll tape#4 “at that time”)


One of those experts may be Dr. Leo Cotter, who has worked with sex offenders for over 20 years.  He told WMNF last month   that  strict rules on where offenders can live makes unsound – and unsafe – policy (roll tape#5 o.q.”    can’t be tracked“)


The Council will revisit the issue on Thursday, March 1st, at 1:30 PM.


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