Iowa bars sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or child-care center. Cities and counties have passed stricter rules, adding libraries, swimming pools, parks, and bike trails to the protected list, says the Los Angeles Times. Now, much of urban Iowa is off limits to those whose past includes a sex crime against a minor. As Californians prepare to vote next week on Proposition 83, which would impose a similar residency ban, Iowa is illustrating unintended consequences of such measures.
Prosecutors, police officials and victims rights groups say the crackdown has backfired, driving some offenders into rural towns and leaving others grouped at motels, campgrounds, freeway rest stops, or on the streets. Many have gone underground, with more than twice as many registered sex offenders now considered missing than before the law took effect. The statewide association of prosecutors declared the law a failure and asked the legislature to pursue a different strategy to protect children from sex crimes. Iowa is among about 20 states and hundreds of communities that have adopted rules governing where released sex felons may live.