2008-02-19: Public Safety Committee meeting

Meeting agenda — Item #8. Information about this bill is no longer attached; see earlier agendas.

After lengthy testimony from Deputy Police Chief Marc Lussier and Sergeant Scott Fuller of the Manchester Police Department, who attended with two other police officers, followed by equally lengthy testimony by this bill’s still-sole supporter, former alderman Leo Pepino, the Committee finally voted to kill the bill, unanimously, once and for all.

We had created another information handout for the aldermen, briefly outlining everything that’s wrong with residency restrictions, which we distributed to them beforehand.

Sgt. Fuller testified that:—

  • He has worked in the Juvenile division for seven years, and has overseen the sex-offender registry in Manchester for four years.
  • The current registration law (RSA 651-B) is working well.
  • The Legislature has rejected residency restrictions on the State level.
  • The fact that someone is on the sex-offender registry does not prevent assaults.
  • The purpose of the sex-offender registry is to educate the public as to potential safety threats: It lets the public know “when a sexual offender is living in [their] midst.”
  • In all his years covering the sex-offender registry, he has only had 3–4 offenders reoffend—and they offended against a known victim, in no relation to where they were living.
  • Sex offenders commit assaults against family members, caregivers, babysitters, &c.; there are “very few stranger attacks, per se.”
  • Studies are coming in from everywhere that show there is no correlation between residency restrictions and recidivism rates.
  • Residency restrictions have been enacted in other states, and they have led to a dramatic increase in homelessness. Manchester’s sole homeless shelter prohibits registered sex offenders from living there.
  • However, if they become homeless, they’re not going to leave Manchester, because our city has the best public services, public transportation, access to counseling, and so on.
  • The Manchester Police Department maintains a 97% compliance rate, due to strict enforcement, a zero-tolerance policy for infractions, and a compliance-check program. The compliance rate was 92% prior to the implentation of their compliance-check program.
  • Compliance checks involve an officer going to an offenders residence four times per year and confirming, in person, that they do in fact live there.
  • There are five communities in New Hampshire that have residency restrictions, but their population ranges from 3,000 to 30,000, meaning they are no comparison to Manchester, with over 110,000 people.
  • He stated bluntly, “The current system is working.”

Pepino responded with long, rambling testimony in which he spent more time attacking the people opposed to his bill (mainly us) than he did defending the bill itself. Our animated logo that cycles between reevaluate, reform, and remedy apparently confused the eighty-year-old ex-alderman, leading him to believe that one day we were called one thing, but we were calling ourselves something else the next time he visited our site. Annoyed by our assertion that the bill was on its last legs in December, he went on to rebut our constitutional arguments on a completely separate issue by saying “what the states are trying to do is help the children.”

After dropping “for the children” rhetoric several times into his speech, he went on to call all our arguments “boilerplate rhetoric.”

At one point, he said he agreed with the police testimony, but that they didn’t speak of this ordinance directly. He then went on to talk about the Adam Walsh Act, Megan’s Law, that we can’t change the State registry law because it’s federally mandated, a sex-offender named Coolidge who committed his crime in 1964, and various other sex-offender topics that weren’t related to this ordinance directly.

Then it got weird.

He claimed that CURSOR was behind HB 504, a bill before the State House in early 2007 that Laurie, herself, had been working on—months before CURSOR had even come into existence, months before Jeremy had even moved to New Hampshire.

Finally, it was over, and Aldermen Jim Roy asked Pepino if there are any reports or studies that prove that residency restrictions do, in fact, lower recidivism. Pepino mumbled through this, saying that there is “all kinds of stuff on record … where it’s working” and that there are “studies all over the country.” When asked if he actually had any numbers to back this up, he said he could get them if they needed them.

O’Neil, Sullivan, and Oullette then discussed the bill, concurred with the police testimony completely, and finally the aldermen voted 5–0 to receive and file the bill.

Afterwards, Jeremy and Pepino were interviewed by Dan Magazu of the Manchester Daily Express.