2008-02-20: Manchester Daily Express: Aldermen kill residency restriction proposal

By Dan Magazu, Manchester Daily Express (original article)

A proposal to restrict where registered sex offenders can live in Manchester was unanimously killed by a committee of aldermen on Tuesday following testimony from members of the police department.

The proposal would have restricted sex offenders from living near public areas in the city where children gather, such as schools, day care centers, churches, parks and libraries. It was being pushed by former Ward 4 Alderman Leo Pepino.

Several members of the police department were at the meeting to voice their opposition to the residency restriction ordinance, including Sgt. Scott Fuller, who spent 7 years in the juvenile division.

Fuller said that during that time, there were only four reported cases of a sex offender in Manchester re-offending. He said that in each case, the repeat offender already knew the victim.

“There are very few stranger attacks,” Fuller said.

He said previous studies on residency restrictions have concluded that there is no correlation between where a sex offenders lives and the recidivism rate. Fuller said the studies did show that residency restrictions increase the number of homeless sex offenders, making it more difficult to track them.

“Whether we like it or not, Manchester is an attractive place for sex offenders,” Fuller said. “We have a halfway house, low-income housing and other options not found in every community. They’re not going to leave Manchester if residency restrictions are in place.”

Members of the Committee on Public Safety, Health and Traffic voted to kill the issue. The committee also made a motion to have Mayor Frank Guinta increase funding for the police department’s compliance check program, which aims to ensure that sex offenders are registering properly.

The program has helped the city maintain a 97 percent compliance rate.

“I’m led to believe that our efforts would be better spent supporting a program that’s worked in the past,” said Ward 4 Alderman Jim Roy.

Pepino tried to argue that residency restrictions have worked in other communities, but did not have statistics on hand to back up his claim. He said that talk of sex offenders going underground due to such restrictions is just “rhetoric.”