The Ced-Rel Motel in Cedar Rapids, Ia., has become a disquieting symbol of what has gone wrong with Iowa’s crackdown on sexual offenders of children, says the New York Times. With just 24 rooms, the motel, was home to 26 registered sex offenders by the start of March. “Nobody wants to have something associated with sex offenders right beside them,” said Steve Boland, a farmer and father of two who learns about his newest neighbors every few weeks when sheriff’s deputies stop by with photographs of them. The men have flocked to rural motels and trailer parks because no one else will, or can, have them. A new state law barring those convicted of sex crimes involving children from living within 2,000 feet of a school or day care center has brought unintended consequences. It has rendered some offenders homeless and left others sleeping in cars or in the cabs of their trucks.
Many have vanished from sight, with nearly three times as many registered sex offenders considered missing since before the law took effect in September. “The truth is that we’re starting to lose people,” said Don Vrotsos, chief deputy for the Dubuque County sheriff’s office, who tries to keep track of that county’s 101 sex offenders. Fearful that Iowa’s sex offenders might seek refuge across state lines, six neighboring states have joined the frenzy. The rocky start of the Iowa law – one of at least 18 state laws governing the living arrangements of those convicted of sex crimes – has led to a round of second-guessing about whether such laws really work. “Nobody wants sex offenders in their area, and on its face, it makes sense that people wouldn’t want them near day cares and schools,” said Scott Matson of the Center for Sex Offender Management, a nonprofit project financed by the U.S. Department of Justice. “But there are consequences of removing them.”