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Bill would restrict where sex offenders can live

(Lexington County) January 30, 2007 - News 10 has learned there are dozens of sex offenders living just a half mile from some Lexington County schools. That's prompting a new bill that would restrict where the offenders can call home. But some say that's not the answer.

The sun comes up on another day in the Nursery Road neighborhood of Irmo. It's a place with beautiful homes, a lot of families, and sex offenders.

One man lives about 1,000 yards from the neighborhood elementary school. WIS' Kara Gormley visited his home. He says, "I've never done anything to harm a child."

He told Kara he was arrested for looking at naked pictures of young girls on the web.

Another offender living near Frances Mack Primary School said he raped someone.

A third down the road from Red Bank Elementary didn't tell Kara his crime, but he is listed as a predator - the most dangerous kind of sex offender. He's living with his mother, "I want to leave everyone else alone and I want to be left alone."

None of the men wanted to talk on camera, but they all invited Kara into their homes. Their faces, addresses, and crimes are public record. Although WIS is not divulging their personal information, Kara found many people already know who and where they are.

Parent Mark Jordan tells WIS, "I try to have my kids avoid that part of the neighborhood if they're playing alone."

Many know, but not all. In fact many people may not be aware that 57 people on the Sex Offender Registry live within a half-mile of Lexington County schools right now.

When we looked them up, we discovered the Lexington County school with the most sex offenders living around it is Busbee Middle School in Cayce. Five offenders live within a half-mile of Busbee.

Representative Joan Brady is helping draft a bill that would restrict where registered sex offenders live around schools and daycare centers, "This legislation is specifically would have residency restrictions for criminal sexual offenders who have committed crimes against a minor."

Twenty-two states have similar legislation in place. The parents Kara talked with, like Lindsay Sproul, support it, "Sex offenders around schools - just don't need to be there."

The legislation, however, comes with controversy. "Right now I think people are coming up with a lot of laws playing the fear card," say Kevin Gray. Gray is with the with the ACLU. "Here we are talking about sex offenses, everybody's mind automatically goes to pedophelia - and kids. And there are different kinds of sex offenders."

Remember the offender who told us he downloaded provocative pictures of young girls? He said it was by accident, "Yet, I'm listed on the same list of people that rape 10-year-old girls and I'm treated the same."

Should he be forced to move? Under Brady's Bill, he would be grandfathered. But Brady says if someone was convicted of possessing child porn in the future, under her legislation, the offender wouldn't be allowed to live near a school, "They are considered convicted sex offenders. That is the designation, the crime, the penalty that follows them through life."

But would keeping offenders the equivalent of a city block or two away from children's schools really help if someone wanted to hurt a child? The parents Kara talked with think so. Parent William Florence says, "The further you can keep them away - the less opportunity they have to abduct a child and do something awful to them."

Gray counters, "We haven't seen any statistics that show moving people, restricting where they can live are removing the temptation. In fact it creates more of a problem because you can lose track of people."

But Lindsay Sproul, a Gaston parent, doesn't think that would happen. She has four children, and as long as sex offenders live near her kids' schools, she says she'll be in line waiting to get them, "Because it's almost a 1/4 mile, a mile that she would have to walk from the bus stop to the house. That's why my kids get picked up from school."

Reported by Kara Gormley

Posted 10:32pm by Chantelle Janelle

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