Globe: Sex offender case rekindles debate on bans

by susan on October 18, 2012

When Southborough police acknowledged they made a mistake in allowing a registered Level 2 sex offender to live in close proximity to a preschool despite a town bylaw prohibiting it, it made news beyond the borders of our town. Today the Boston Globe takes a look a the case and the larger debate about whether residency restrictions are constitutional and whether they even work.

Reports the Globe:

There are six registered sex offenders living in Southborough, (Police Chief Jane Moran) said, with two classified as “Level 3,” meaning they’re considered most likely to reoffend.

Only 10 percent of Southborough does not fall within 1,000 feet of a school, day-care center, playground, or other areas covered by the bylaw, greatly limiting where sex offenders can reside, Moran said.

“That’s one of the consequences of their mistakes, and overwhelmingly Town Meeting felt that was justified,” said John Rooney, chairman of the Southborough Board of Selectmen.

(ACLU of Massachsuetts Lawyer John Reinstein), however, calls the limitation something else.

“It’s banishment,” Reinstein said. “It means you can’t live in the entire town, and that in turn concedes the authority of one town to determine sex offenders have to live elsewhere.”

No surprise we’ve talked about this case extensively here on the blog, but now that a bit of time has passed and some of the initial fervor has died down, what do you think? Did you support the sex offender bylaw when in passed in 2008 and do you still? Do you believe residency restrictions work? Or do they offer only a false sense of security? I encourage you to check out the Globe piece, and then come back and share your thoughts in the comments.

{ 13 comments }

1 anonymous October 18, 2012 at 1:22 PM

I agreed with a previous point made on another comment stream that is this by-law creates a false sense of security. I would rather not say who I am because that person was vilified. And, I also agree with the statement from the Globe article that too many restrictions may lead offenders to not comply with the mandate to register in the town where they live. I can not imagine hurting a child, and I have no sympathy for those who do. But, I do think that by severely restricting the options of an offender who has served his sentence does not make that offender look kindly on society. From my point of view, I would rather know who lives next door and make my own decisions about the security measures I take. It does me no good to think my neighborhood is safe because the by-laws say so. I have lived in “safe” towns all my life, but I know that no town is truly safe and I do assume that bad things can and will happen. I lived Southborough when the by-law was passed, but I am not active in town government so I have no knowledge of its passing. I am not sure why Mr. Rooney is so confident that it won’t be challenged if it only allows for 10% of available housing. One other point is that I would like to understand the state statistics behind the number of individuals who must register as sex offenders for unfortunate decisions like relieving oneself in public and other similar charges that really have no reflection on the intent of the law (ie keeping innocent victims safe) I know that is not the criminal history of the individual recently arrested, and I am in no way defending this individual.

2 Pat October 18, 2012 at 2:01 PM

I noticed in the Globe article Chief Moran is still blaming “outdated computer equipment.” So, the police department still has not figured out how to access the GIS site or draw circles on a map?

3 daddyo October 18, 2012 at 2:51 PM

Okay, here we go.

We are very lucky to live in a town as safe as Southborough. As a kid growing up in town I thought what a boring town. As a parent I thought what a wonderful town to raise children. Any town that makes you feel completely safe can give you a false sense of security

My feeling is if restricting where a sex offender lives makes any of our more vulnerable citizens more safe, then I’m all for it. And I believe it does. I tend to have a much higher regard for the rights of potential victims than I do for convicted sex offenders.

That being said, I believe residential restrictions play a small part in keeping people safe. I can also tell you several years ago while I was coaching soccer I noticed a young man on the field acting strange. I approached him and asked who he was there to watch. He didn’t know anyone on the field and couldn’t tell me where he came from. I called the police and Officer Rick Mattioli responded, I can assure you he took it very seriously. This happened at Woodward School, Rick took him into custody and tracked his car down on Pakerville Rd. This young man claimed he had buried his shoes and couldn’t find them. In the end he was brought to a mental health hospital to be evaluated but he wasn’t left on our ball field with our children.

I think it is pretty obvious that having a sex offender that has harmed children in the past is not a good fit to be living next to a child care facility or a sex offender who harms the elderly should not be living next to elderly housing.

There were obvious mistakes made here in town and I’m glad no harm came from them. But I do also think the Southborough Police Department overall does a wonderful job keeping our town a safe place to live.

4 Autumn October 19, 2012 at 9:39 AM

Daddyo,

Please check the police report in regard to that story. You have the wrong arresting officer. If memory serves, Officer Michael Crenshaw was the officer that reported to the scene and Officer Mattioli came as back up and might have possibly been the transport for the prisoner to the station while Officer Crenshaw searched for his vehicle.

5 daddyo October 19, 2012 at 12:42 PM

Autumn i was their to id the young man when officer Matioli aproached me i re member answering all of his many questions thier may have been another officer there also and he may be the one who found the car several miles away not sure .but i do know i was the one to notice the young man aproach him ask him what he was doing there call the police when his answers didnt make sence and answer all ricks questions and watched the young man taken away and was thanked by rick for my help.your point seems funny im not sure what the point was.i certainly was not trying to take any credit away from ricks fellow officers

6 tad5 October 18, 2012 at 3:49 PM

I rode my bike past two elementary schools last week and there was not a single child on the grounds. I rode past the homes of three offenders and there were MONITORED children playing in the streets. It doesn’t matter where an ex offender lives. They can drive to the school. They won’t find any children there, though. Good study by Dr. Karen Franklin; just google: static-99r-risk-estimates-wildly

7 Frank Crowell October 18, 2012 at 4:10 PM

Just when I thought this was being put behind us, we get another article and of course we need the ACLU comment, which means they have litigation in mind. Oh and an added bonus, we get to read Chief Moran once again say “outdated computer equipment.”

Hey Chief let me buy you a clue: If the proper procedures were in place after this by-law passed, we would not have had all this coverage. Unless I am misunderstanding, you are in charge of the department and its procedures. This is not a funding issue.

As for the fine officers in town, thank you for you dedicated work. It does not go unnoticed here.

8 Publius October 18, 2012 at 4:36 PM

These bylaws give a false sense of security and do nothing to make the community safer. The bylaws do create a hassle for the Police to monitor not only addresses but also monitoring the other registered offenders. Ask most Chief’s, bylaws and even public registration do little but create enormous burdens. Not to mention many communities are forced to defend the bylaws, incurring significant expense, in court. But the bylaws sound good and the politicans get to pat themselves on the back so they continue.

9 Rudy101 October 18, 2012 at 5:18 PM

It is the POWER, and the never ending litigation.

You have someone on a registry, for as many different reasons, as there are people on the registry. It is curious that mental health professionals don’t have any say on whether a person is included on a registry.

The vast majority of you want a vote on this. The courts are stuck with an all or nothing proposition in a lawsuit.

Everyone knows there are some people on the registry that are dangerous. Or need to be monitered. And even need to be restricted.

The law says EVERYONE, regardless of circumstances must leave town or not enter with the intention of staying who fit the wide criteria of being excluded.

Why not ask a judge? Put it this way to him:

“Listen Judge, this registry is way too much of a hot potato for the legislature and the public to deal with by themselves. We need a little indepdendence to cool the hot heads out there who are on a symbolic witch hunt. If you , JUDGE, can articulsate why so and so cannot live in the community, I think everyone would be satisfied. I think, also, Judge if the regulation like a residency restriction for so and so, does not satisfy the requirements of increased public safety, those laws should not be enforced, don’t you think, JUDGE?

Because if you don’t give us your independence, JUDGE, we will continue on and on, and won’t have any checks at all on who we include in our little banishment laws all because we want to feel safe!

In other words, JUDGE, give us some wisdom and rationality behind our quest to become a more just and safe society.”

10 Matthew Brownell October 19, 2012 at 2:08 PM

“Symbolic Witch Hunt” (?? !!)

That is how you characterize the arrest of a Level 2 predator, who was found to be living within shouting distance of a children’s daycare canter, with pictures of naked children posing in sexual positions – on his computer??

Even if you disagree with the 1,000 foot residency ban for child predators, I think we can all agree this is a best practice and common sense vehicle for minimizing imminent risk and recidivism. Ultimately, I am confident that most courts would fully place a much higher regard for the rights of potential victims than for the faux trampled rights of convicted sex offenders.

11 Pat Q. October 18, 2012 at 5:57 PM

Typical and predictable that the media chose to show up for, essentially, a non-news story when instead they should have covered the Drive for the Troops event. Now that was news worthy.

12 D. Romm October 18, 2012 at 6:41 PM

I am reluctant to comment on this issue. However, I can share a personal experience which I hope will bring a different perspective. Our sons were in a daycare in Sudbury. The daycare hired third-party entities to conduct some of the activities, like music and gym. Last year the man who was hired to be a gym instructor was sentenced to at least 10 years for child porn charges. (He had been charged the previous year and the charges were very explicit and graphic.) He, and a reputable guy (or at least family) from Sudbury had created a physical fitness business for kids and the daycare businesss hired them to work in all of their centers. The 33-year old man lived in Acton.
Personally, I was disappointed that the story did not make any news, and this guy worked at all of the daycare centers, maybe 9 of them throughout the region, and yet what occurred in Southborough gained a lot of attention….
I have intentionally omitted names. It’s a difficult issue and maybe there’s no easy answer.

13 Steve October 29, 2012 at 8:35 PM

Does the town bylaw violate the human rights of formerly convicted criminals? This really is a difficult and complex question, isn’t it?

I don’t know the answer to such a weighty question, but I do believe that as a civilized society, we owe it to ourselves to debate this question fairly. I know it’s difficult when the subject is about sex offenders, even for someone who was a non-violent level II offender like Mr. Goichman.

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