Council considers residency restrictions for registered sex offenders

The City Council next Monday, Dec. 21, will consider passing an ordinance that would restrict the distance a registered sexual predator can live in proximity to a school or licensed day care facility.
On Dec. 7, Joan Stoller approached the Council and requested the passage of an ordinance, after recently learning that a registered sex offender had moved into her family’s neighborhood.
Currently Falls City doesn’t have such an ordinance in effect. The Nebraska Legislature in 2006 passed the Sexual Predator Residency Act as part of the Sexual Offender Registration Act and essentially enacted guidelines for those cities who chose to adopt a living restriction ordinance. It is not a statewide law. Therefore, it only applies to those cities or designated entities that pass such an ordinance and also only applies to schools and day cares; furthermore, it will be up to local agencies to enforce the restrictions, if adopted.
The Nebraska State Patrol does not track which cities choose to enact or enforce the respective ordinances.
If a restriction were to go into effect in Falls City, it would pertain to sexual “predators,” not sex “offenders.” A sex offender has been convicted of a crime and is required to register as a sex offender, while a sexual predator has committed an aggravated offense and victimized a person 18 years of age or younger. It once was the State Patrol’s job to differentiate the two and make a determination based on risk of recidivism. The law was amended in 2009;
The restriction cannot exceed 500 feet from a school or day care and sexual predators who established their residences before July 1, 2006 are excluded from restrictions. Furthermore, if the registered offender was living in an area before a licensed facility opened, they too would be excluded.
“I’m asking that due diligence is done and the children of our city are protected,” Mrs. Stoller said, noting that other cities in Nebraska had passed such an ordinance, including McCook and Nebraska City.  
Falls City Police Chief Duane Armbruster said that about half the dwellings in Falls City are located within 500 feet of a school. Most cities that have passed such ordinances are larger, and as a second class city, Administrator Gary Jorn explained, Falls City would have the authority to impose a $500 fine for breaking the ordinance, but couldn’t jail the offender or force the person to move.
Armbruster said there are currently 11 sexual offenders living inside city limits and fewer than half – five – would be classified as sexual predators.
“You’re going to find that if you make a statute, sometimes its good and sometimes it’s bad because you put more pressure on the sex offender and sometimes it drives them harder to re-offend,” Armbruster said.  
“It would be a major thing to monitor, measure, keep an eye on it. Very time consuming,” he added.
The Council motioned to table the issue until next Monday’s meeting.
“It’s not something we can act on tonight,” Mayor Jerry Oliver said. “It’s something we need to make sure we have all the information first.”
Mayor Oliver thanked Mrs. Stoller and invited her to the 7 p.m. Monday meeting at City Hall, 2307 Barada St.
In other news:
—The Council entered into an interlocal agreement with Richardson County for an aerial photo project. The project, recommended by the Board of Public Works, will cost the City nearly $10,000 over three years.
—Also approved was a $5.3 million loan with the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality to improve and repair the public water supply system. The 20-year loan comes with a 2-percent interest rate. More than $1 million is eligible for loan forgiveness.
—Ken Simpson will continue as the Falls City Volunteer Fire Dept. Chief, Matt Beer will serve as First Assistant Chief and J. R. Wisdom will be Second Assistant Fire Chief.

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