City Adopts Child Sex Offender Law

Peabody joins more than 40 other cities and towns in the Bay State by creating a local child sex offender ordinance to restrict the activities of convicted offenders.

The City Council unanimously adopted a new ordinance Thursday night that will create "child safety zones" in Peabody and thereby restrict the activities of convicted Level 2 and 3 child sex offenders.

The zones would typically be schools, parks, libraries or other areas children often congregate and the Police Department would be tasked with enforcing the law and handing out fines to repeat offenders.

"I think this is the right thing for our city," Mayor Ted Bettencourt said, arguing the ordinance is important to safeguarding the city's children against sexual predators.

He told councilors that this measure is about public safety, particularly for children, and that local officials should do what they can to empower the police to deal with safety concerns.

Bettencourt first started working on the law this summer after learning of an incident at a city park where two Level 3 sex offenders had a run-in with some parents while a youth sports game was going on nearby. One mother, Jessica O'Hara, reached out to Bettencourt afterward.

"I was greatly concerned as all of you are that such an incident could take place at one of our parks and our Police Department didn't have the ability or power to do anything [legally]...because a state law doesn't exist or a municipal ordinance didn't exist," Bettencourt said.

He, along with other local officials, was surprised to learn there were no existing state laws that prohibited the activities of sex offenders who had served out their time.

There are only about two dozen states in the country that have enacted such laws, and in Massachusetts, such restrictions are dealt with in court as part of sentencing or probation.

Peabody's new ordinance is modeled after one in New Bedford, which is not currently facing a legal challenge.

Councilors, who fully supported the measure back in October, had little more to say Thursday other than give a firm "yes" vote.

"I think it's a terrific ordinance," said Council President James Liacos. "I was really surprised that we didn't already have something in place."

Several parents were present again Thursday as well for the council's vote, along with School Committee members Dave McGeney, Brandi Carpenter, Ed Charest and Tom Rossignoll.

"I think it speaks for itself," McGeney told reporters after the vote, in reference to the local ordinance.

He added that he's heard nothing but total support for the measure along with surprise that no such law had previously existed.

Jeff F December 14, 2012 at 02:40 PM
It's a great first step..I hope we have the resources to enforce and follow through with this ordinance.
Sean Ward December 14, 2012 at 03:04 PM
If it keeps the other 3% from raping children it's a good start.
Mass Children December 14, 2012 at 03:48 PM
On behalf of Protect Mass Children we would like to thank the Mayor and the City Council for thier committment to children, and public safety. Joseph DiPietro / President Protect Mass Children www.protectmasschildren.org Educate. Advocate. Protect.
Extremely Disgruntled December 18, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Sean you are assuming that 100% of all sex crimes are against children. That 97% figure is for ALL sex crimes, no matter what the age of the victim is. Emotionally, anything is worth protecting children. Realistically on the other hand, someone who is going to commit these types of crime are really not going to be slowed by any legislation in any way. Remember also that most sex crimes are NOT committed by a stranger, it is usually someone in the person's INNER circle. (See Sandusky as an example.) Banning people from parks etc. will lose in Court. Just look to all the cities in Orange County CA, AND what it cost them to defend their cases. And then again, what is happening a year after they passed their ordinances...
Extremely Disgruntled December 18, 2012 at 07:30 PM
One more thing, if this legislation were SPECIFICALLY tailored to those who had crime which involved these places, then STRICTLY as part of their sentencing they shouldn't be allowed. Deemed restricted to an area by a Court will withstand most legal muster. Simply banning every offender without a crime in that area won't.


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