In the two years since Milwaukee leaders enacted residency restrictions as a way to push sex offenders out of the city, little has gone as planned, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Rather than reducing the number of sex offenders, the ordinance has put more than 200 of them in the street and failed to keep new offenders from moving into the city. Experts say the increase in homeless sex offenders could put the public at greater risk. Studies show that without a permanent home, the lives of offenders become more unstable, increasing the chance they will re-offend. “Somebody might feel safer today because this one person doesn’t live on their block. But as a community, we are not safer, and this is not sustainable,” said Holly Patzer of Wisconsin Community Services, a nonprofit advocacy group.
The ordinance bans many sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of areas where children are commonly found, such as schools, parks and day care centers. That means hundreds of sex offenders are limited to 117 possible housing units, which might not be available to rent or buy. When the Milwaukee Common Council voted 8-6 to approve the ordinance in 2014, supporters said it would protect the public by pushing more offenders out of the city and into the suburbs. Instead, the number of homeless sex offenders in Milwaukee County has spiked, rising from about 15 in early 2014 to 230 this summer. Milwaukee police officials warned in 2014 that homelessness would increase, but a lead sponsor of the ordinance, Alderman Tony Zielinski, said he didn’t believe them.