Cities across North Texas are developing a sudden blitz of laws aimed at keeping pedophiles from living near places where children gather, reports the Dallas Morning News. Prosper and Rowlett approved ordinances Tuesday that prohibit registered sex offenders who have victimized children from living within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, and day-care centers. Three other cities had passed similar measures, and a fourth has an ordinance in the works. “This is one of those touchstone issues,” said Cara Mendelsohn, an elementary school PTA president. “People are very passionate about it.”
It’s debatable whether these rules actually make children safer, critics say. They say such ordinances could discourage offenders from registering, and some researchers have found that residency restrictions can produce a sense of isolation that leads offenders to strike again. The wave of new restrictions has unleashed a political domino effect. When one city adopts an ordinance, neighboring cities quickly follow suit for fear of becoming an overnight magnet for sex offenders. “It’s like a speeding train, rolling down the tracks, that’s unable to stop,” said Allison Taylor of the Texas Council on Sex Offender Treatment. “From an elected official’s standpoint, nobody’s going to really want to vote against this,” said Mike McConachie, a political science professor at Collin County Community College. David Berman, a Rowlett city attorney, said that while the constitutionality of such regulations is untested, Rowlett has no desire to be among a handful of cities without the tougher rules. “If we don’t get it on the books, whether right or wrong, we don’t want them coming here,” he said.