2008-02-18: Manchester Daily Express: Sex offender registry remains on the table

By Dan Magazu, Manchester Daily Express (original article)

City officials prepare to discuss proposal again this week

Former alderman Leo Pepino continues to pressure city officials to copy a few other New Hampshire communities by establishing residency requirements for registered sex offenders.

Pepino’s proposal would restrict sex offenders from living near public areas in the city where children gather, such as schools, day care centers, churches, parks and libraries.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen will consider the proposal during a meeting on Tuesday.

In 2007, the communities of Tilton, Northfield, Boscawen and Franklin adopted ordinances that restrict sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of areas where children congregate. Violators are required to pay fines.

Late last year, aldermen on the Committee on Public Safety, Health and Traffic had city staff plot a map that showed where sex offenders would be forced to live in Manchester with a restriction of 500 feet. But the issue has remained tabled at the committee level ever since.

A few aldermen, however, have already expressed their opposition to the proposal.

Alderman-at-Large Dan O’Neil believes the best way to keep kids safe is to put more money into the city’s sex offender compliance program.

“These restrictions could drive sex offenders underground,” O’Neil said in December. “We currently have a high registration rate because of our compliance program.”

Deputy police chief Marc Lussier agrees with O’Neil’s assessment, pointing out that his department has a juvenile detective that goes out and performs compliance checks.

Pepino said yesterday that he has been very frustrated by the unwillingness of the committee to move forward.

“If this ordinance protects just one child, it will be worth it,” Pepino said.

Pepino said he does not understand why the police department is opposed to the ordinance. He dismisses the idea that the restrictions will drive sex offenders underground.

“This is all rhetoric,” Pepino said. “There has been no record of anyone going underground in other areas with residency restrictions.”

It’s likely that at least a few city residents, including Laurie Peterson, will appear at Tuesday’s meeting to voice their opposition to the proposal.

Last August, in response to Pepino’s proposal, Peterson created a group called CURSOR, or Citizens United to Remedy Sex Offender Registries. Peterson’s husband Michael is required to register as a sex offender after a 1997 conviction for statutory rape when he was nineteen years old. Peterson said the woman Michael slept with had claimed to be 17 years old but was actually 15.

Peterson argues that residency requirements will do nothing to protect children.

“If you want to molest a child, you will,” she said during a committee meeting in December. “It doesn’t matter where you live.”

Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen begins at 7:30 p.m.