New Jersey’s most dangerous sex offenders, according to a Newark Star-Ledger analysis, tend to cluster in crowded urban areas, often near places children congregate. Many share houses or a city block, forming little sex-offender enclaves in cities and towns where there are inexpensive apartments and boarding houses. These housing patterns could change dramatically. The same cities that now play host to concentrations of dangerous sex offenders would be most affected by legislation introduced last week to keep those offenders away from children.
A state legislative committee is scheduled to take up the issue tomorrow. It has on its agenda a bill that would ban sex offenders from moving within 500 feet of a school, playground, or child care center. West Trenton lawyer Jack Furlong, author of a guidebook to New Jersey’s sex offender registration laws, said, “It’ss going to blow up in their faces if it’s upheld because it’s going to tend to make cities off- limits to sex offenders.” The result could be an exodus to suburban and rural areas. Said the sponsor of one bill: “Nobody’s going to want them — that’s the problem.” Roxanne Lieb of the Washington State Institute for Public Policy said lawmakers in that state devised a formula requiring each county to take its fair share of sex offenders because so many were zoning out offenders graduating from treatment programs. A dozen other states already have “pedophile-free zones.”