Controversial sex offender proposal tabled by Common Council

CREATED Jun 12, 2014

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MILWAUKEE - The Milwaukee Common Council's Steering and Rules Committee on Thursday tabled a proposal to prevent sex offenders from living within a third of a mile from schools, parks and day cares.

That may sound very thoughtful with regards to protecting children. But, speakers at the hearing Thursday offered another viewpoint.

It's pretty easy to go online and see if you're living near a sex offender. But, police fear that could change. Convicted rapists could start to lie, set up a p.o. box someplace else, but truly be living in a home near a school, daycare or park.
"When you can't keep track of them and when you don't know where they're living, that is really, it's much more of a public safety concern than it is knowing where they are," said Milwaukee police inspector Carianne Yerkes.
Right now, nearly 2,400 sex offenders live in Milwaukee County, almost 90 percent right in the city of Milwaukee. While public officials vary in their views, it's all to keep kids safe. No one's arguing that.
"To keep them back away from schools and parks and daycares 2,000 feet, really would be a benefit? I think there's definitely some benefit if we can do it in a way that doesn't create unintended negative consequences, in other words, we don't lose track of them," said Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm.
Under the 2,000 foot limitation, almost 50 percent of newly released predators could end up on the city's south side which has less schools, parks and day cares. Alderman Witkowski's fighting that.
"Alderman Bauman made the case that nobody wants to live next to a sex offender and if you've established a sex offender colony or an area, nobody wants to live near that," said Alderman Terry Witkowski.
The proposal's been tabled for now. Aldermen hope the state's Department of Corrections and the governor will ultimately pass legislation to fairly distribute sex offenders across all of Wisconsin.