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County considers sexual predator location ban

They won't be allowed to go anywhere within 300 feet of fixed places where children gather.

By BILL VARIAN
Published February 22, 2007


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TAMPA - Following the lead of the Tampa City Council, Hillsborough County commissioners will consider banning sexual predators from places where children congregate.

Commissioners voted unanimously to craft an ordinance and take it to public hearing, after which they would need to approve it with another vote.

The law would prohibit sexual predators with a record of crimes against children from going within 300 feet of fixed places where children congregate, such as schools, playgrounds and day care centers. It would prohibit them from entering places where children gather that might have roving or temporary locations, such as fairs or bus stops.

Sexual predators get that label under state law if they are deemed prone to violence, did things such as stalk victims unknown to them, or are considered at risk of repeating their crimes. The law would not apply to people labeled as sex offenders for lesser crimes.

Current state law prohibits sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of places where children gather, such as schools. In response to several high-profile cases of child rape and murder, the city and county have considered increasing the buffer.

But initial analyses showed that increasing boundaries could concentrate those found guilty of sex crimes in a few areas, and would be hard to defend against legal challenges. Law enforcement officials say it could also drive some sexual predators into hiding, making it harder to keep track of them.

The child safety zones, as they are being called, attempt to curtail where sexual predators go rather than where they live, and to place limits on the most dangerous of sex offenders.

[Last modified February 22, 2007, 06:24:59]


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