RACINE — After a sex offender was nearly relocated within blocks of a former victim’s West Racine residence, an alderman is proposing changes that would restrict where sex offenders can live in the city.
In designating a residence for released sexual offenders, the state Department of Health Services is required to vet potential locations for proximity to possible victims (schools, public pools and parks, for example).
The trouble that arises for communities is that the state has no hard and fast rules that dictate exactly how close a convicted sex offender can live to schools, churches and other places children might gather. To help give the city some control over where sex offenders can be placed in Racine, 12th District Alderman Molly Hall is working with City Attorney Rob Weber on a proposed ordinance that limits how close to such places convicted sex offenders can live.
The Public Safety and Licensing Committee is slated to review the proposed ordinance, which is still in draft form, on Wednesday. If the City Council ends up approving the measure, Racine will join dozens of other municipalities across the state, including Burlington and Caledonia, that have already opted to install their own sex offender buffer zones.
“The purpose of the ordinance will be to put Racine on equal footing with other municipalities that currently have ordinances restricting the placement of convicted sex offenders,” Hall said. “Currently the city does not have any ordinances restricting the placement of sex offenders, and those who have been convicted of sexual crimes against children.”
Hall began looking into what could be done to limit where sex offenders are relocated last month when news surfaced that the state Department of Health Services had almost relocated convicted sex offender Michael Fink to a residence at 918 Lathrop Ave.
In addition to being close to the home of a former victim, the residence, which is in Hall’s district, is within blocks of Fratt Elementary School, 3501 Kinzie Ave., and Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, 3805 Kinzie Ave.
West Racine residents, like Mary Schiro, who lives kitty-corner from 918 Lathrop Ave., were left rattled by the misstep.
Schiro said an ordinance barring sex offenders from living near places like schools, churches and parks in Racine is needed to protect neighborhoods, kids and all victims of sexual assault.
“There are a lot of places in the state that do have these ordinances,” the 58-year-old registered nurse said. “Something has to give somewhere.”