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Police & Fire

Supremes: Towns can’t redline sex offenders

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

New Jersey municipalities don’t have the authority to keep convicted offenders from living within nearly a half-mile of schools, libraries, parks, playgrounds or day care centers, the state Supreme Court has ruled.

Now at least 118 municipalities that kept offenders from living near schools, day care centers and such will have to wipe those ordinances from the books.

Megan’s Law already protects children from sexual predators by providing information to communities about where they live, the justices agreed.

According to the state Public Defender’s Office, all that local red-lining does is further “restrict already limited housing opportunities” for sex offenders and keep them from being “rehabilitated and reintegrated into the community.”

Some quietly move in with friends or relatives, taking work (if they can get it) that pays under the table. Other commit other minor violations or petty crimes.

Those most likely to offend go to great lengths to move around or hide themselves within a community, instead of telling authorities where they really live.

Critics say this undermines Megan’s Law, the popular measure that requires convicted sex offenders to register wherever  they live so that ordinary citizens know who they are — and where they are. (See: Sex offenders are people, too.)

However, if municipalities want to change the “stark language of Megan’s Law” which keeps them from making their own rules, they should not look to the court for “guidance,” Chief Justice Stuart Rabner wrote in the court’s unanimous ruling.

 

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