2007-09-28: AP: Nashua considering sex offender residency restrictions

Associated Press

NASHUA, N.H. (AP) — Nashua is the latest New Hampshire community considering banning sex offenders from living near schools, parks and day-care centers.

The ordinance, introduced by Alderman James Tollner, would prevent registered sex offenders who have been convicted of a crime against a person under the age of 18 from living within 1,000 feet of the facilities.

The proposal would not force sex offenders to move if they already live in a restricted area, or if a school, park or day care is built in their neighborhood.

Sex offenders also would be prohibited from entering a school or day-care center without authorization.

“We have drug-free zones around the schools. We should have sex offender–free zones around the schools as well,” said Tollner, who is running for mayor.

Tollner is running against Donnalee Lozeau, the former deputy speaker of the state House of Representatives. [Tollner lost. —Ed.]

She said it’s difficult to restrict where sexual predators live because of the number of schools and day-care centers and homes in the city, she said.

The proposed city ordinance could drive sexual predators underground to avoid registering, she said.

“That would be significantly more dangerous,” Lozeau said.

Tollner said he doesn’t buy the argument that restricting where sex offenders live will cause them not to register or update their addresses.

“They have to register. If they don’t register, they’re breaking the law,” Tollner said.

The ordinance had its first reading Tuesday. After being debated in committee, it will be brought back to the aldermen for a vote, long after the November election.

While well intended, the ordinance might be over-restrictive and unconstitutional, Alderman-at-Large Fred Teeboom said.

In a memo to the board, Teeboom wrote, “For me, the 1,000-feet restriction has questionable justification, is anecdotally unproven to prevent the danger it purports to protect against, stands on very dubious legal and constitutional foundation, and opens the city to potential lawsuits.”

Teeboom has asked the city’s deputy corporation counsel for an opinion about the viability of the ordinance.