DALLAS -- It's pretty clear that the Dallas City Council has no love lost for sex offenders, but many Council members want more data before they'll commit to restricting where those convicted of sex offenses involving children can live in Big D.
'We need to see exactly what the proposals would do, because this is another one of those situations where regulation has unintended consequences,' said Council member Philip Kingston during Wednesday's City Council meeting. 'I worry that is kind of half-baked.'
Mayor Mike Raw lings is backing the concept of imposing a buffer zone around the city's parks, day care centers, and schools for those on the sex offender registry involving child-related offenses. The current proposal would grandfather in offenders already living in those zones.
No recommendations have been made on what size buffer zone Dallas should enact. The typical buffer zone is about 1,000 feet.
The mayor began pushing the idea after learning in May from News 8 that Dallas did not have such an ordinance, unlike many other North Texas cities. Police also are on board with passing an ordinance, saying that if it prevents even one child from being victimized, it's worth it.
'Currently, unsupervised offenders have no limitations on where they can reside,' said Dallas police Deputy Chief Gil Garza. 'It will also improve a sense of community safety.'
In Dallas, there are 3,364 sex offenders. Of those, 1,763 were convicted of offenses involving children, and they can live anywhere they want. They aren't on probation or parole.
Another 993 offenders who were convicted of offenses involving children are under restrictions imposed by state law, because they are still on probation or parole. 'Child safety zones' typically impose a 1,000-foot buffer zone from places where children commonly gather, such as schools, day care centers, and playgrounds.
- Council members had lots of questions during Wednesday's session:
- How many parks, schools and day cares are within the city limits?
- What effect would various size buffer zones have?
- What data proves that ordinances like this actually work?
'I support effective management of sex offenders living in communities,' said Council member Jerry Allen. But he wanted to know what research has been done to document the fear that a convicted offender continues to pose a risk.
The reply: There USN't any 'empirical data,' said Deputy Chief Gil Garza.
Allen said he supports the concept of buffer zones, but wants to make sure that the Council thinks it through before rubber-stamping the idea just because everyone else is doing it.
'I don't care what these other cities have done, because most of them are nothing but parrots, repeating,' Allen said.
Not one Council member expressed opposition; they just want to know more.
'We all want to keep our children safe,' said Council member Jennifer Staubach Gates. 'We all want to have a city that encourages people to come, live, work, and play. But if we're going to put a policy in place like this, we need to have some proof that having these exclusion zones that they can't live in actually eliminates or reduces the incidences of abuse.'
But she noted that since many other cities had imposed restrictions, then 'we may need to address it, so that we don't become just the place of choice [for sex offenders in child-related crimes].'
The proposal now goes to a committee.
Bottom line: It's a work in progress.