2007-12-05: Union Leader: MPD’s deputy chief warns against sex offender residency limits

By Scott Brooks, New Hampshire Union Leader (original article)

MANCHESTER — Deputy Police Chief Marc Lussier warned aldermen yesterday against a measure banning registered sex offenders from living near schools, parks and other places where children gather. “I’m concerned that it’s not going to be effective,” Lussier said.

An aldermanic committee tabled the proposed ordinance yesterday, four months after former Alderman Leo Pepino urged its passage.

The committee expects to hear testimony from detectives with the police department’s juvenile division within a month.

Three aldermen on the five-member Committee on Public Safety, Health and Traffic expressed some reservations about the proposed residency restrictions. Alderman At-Large Dan O’Neil said he has spoken with several police officials, including Chief John Jaskolka, and found little support for the measure.

“The common theme coming back from the police department is that this is feel-good legislation,” O’Neil said.

Pepino said residency restrictions are the only weapon the city has for “controlling” sex offenders.

At least five New Hampshire towns, he noted, have passed similar measures in the past two years. “This is a crime. It’s a crime against children,” Pepino said.

As proposed, the measure would ban registered sex offenders from living near schools, daycare centers, parks, playgrounds and libraries.

Some aldermen said they would consider setting the radius at 500 feet.

Another proposal would set the radius at twice that distance. Offenders already living near properties covered in the ordinance would be exempt. A 500-foot ban would cover much of Manchester.

Lussier said he is concerned the measure “is effectively going to ban people from living in the vast majority of the city.” He said he also believes the measure would open the city to litigation.

Roughly 340 registered sex offenders are currently living in Manchester, Lussier said. By law, he said, all of them are required to register with police twice a year. They are also required to notify the department within five days of registering a vehicle.

Members of the police juvenile division do compliance checks regularly, Lussier said. Aldermen O’Neil and Pat Long said they would prefer to give the police more money so the department can perform more compliance checks.

“Enforcement and auditing is going to go a longer way than setting a radius for where (sex offenders) can move in,” Long said.

Two Manchester residents at yesterday’s meeting spoke against the proposal. Laurie Peterson, whose husband, Michael, is on the registry for committing statutory rape when he was 19, said the measure would not stop sex offenders from traveling to commit crimes. “If you want to molest a child, you will,” she said, “It doesn’t matter where you live.”