RACINE — Violent or child sex offenders placed in Racine would be restricted from living near places where children spend time under a new ordinance approved 12-2 by the City Council on Monday.
The ordinance, which bars violent or child sex offenders locating to Racine from residing within 1,000 feet of a school, day care center, library, park, playground, swimming pool or house of worship, will take effect April 24. Aldermen Melissa Kaprelian-Becker and Sandy Weidner voted “no.”
Robert Peterson, an attorney for convicted violent sex offender Michael Fink, has said the restrictions will only succeed in making it more difficult for sex offenders to achieve normalcy in their daily lives.
Speaking during the public comment period of the meeting, he said restrictions on where convicted sex offenders can live have almost no effect on recidivism.
Jennifer Arndt, sex offender registration specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections voiced concerns that the rules would lead to sex offenders failing to register and a lack of awareness of sex offenders on the part of residents.
A review by The Journal Times of a map drafted for the City Council’s Public Safety and Licensing Committee revealed that the restrictions will leave only few pockets of the city available to such offenders.
Outgoing Alderman Molly Hall, who proposed the measure, has said that the proposal is not about further punishing sex offenders but about the city taking steps to keep children safe.
On Monday, she said the measure — which will not apply to designated sex offenders already residing in Racine or those returning to a home they owned before their conviction — would leave places for the affected offenders to live.
The ordinance provides for an appeals process for affected sex offenders looking to challenge the restrictions’ effect on them.
Hall began working on the proposal earlier this year after Fink was nearly relocated within blocks of a victim’s West Racine residence.
That victim, whose name The Journal Times is not releasing, wept during the meeting’s public comment period as she urged the aldermen to support the residency restrictions. “Think of the victims,” she said. “We live a life sentence.”
A neighbor of the victim’s also spoke in favor of the ordinance, as did Deputy Racine Police Chief Todd Schulz, who called the measure “fair.”