Green Bay (AP) — A Wisconsin lawmaker has proposed a change in state law that would end the ability of the state’s municipalities to set their own local rules on sex offender residency.
The bill would create a statewide standard limiting sex offenders from coming within 1,000 feet of parks, schools and other gathering places for children. It also would require the state Department of Corrections to try to place sex offenders within the municipality where they committed the crime.
Republican state Rep. Joel Kleefisch, who authored the bill, said sex offenders are released without supervision in some areas after judges have ruled the local ordinances are unconstitutionally restrictive.
Most cities, villages and towns in Brown County already require people who commit sex crimes to live at least 1,500 feet from designated gathering places for children.
Officials in least one municipality, Green Bay, have drafted a resolution opposing the bill, according to Press-Gazette Media.
Green Bay alderman Chris Wery said the bill would “gut” the city’s 2007 ordinance banning sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of gathering places for children. He said the city had become a “dumping ground” for the sex offenders in Brown County prior to the ordinance, which essentially blocks them from living almost anywhere in the city, unless they’re granted an exemption by the city’s Sex Offender Residency Board.
Brown County has 616 registered sex offenders, and 471 of them live in Green Bay, according to the Department of Corrections.
Some surrounding municipalities passed similarly restrictive rules to stop the influx of offenders who couldn’t find a place to live in Green Bay after larger city adopted the ordinance. Bellevue created a 2,500-foot buffer for sex offender residency in December.
Supporters of the Kleefisch’s proposed bill argue that it would help sex offenders who currently are forced to go underground because they can’t find anywhere to live due to the increasingly restrictive local ordinances.
Nearly 360 sex offenders in Wisconsin are reported as homeless, according to the Department of Corrections.