After Palm Beach County, Fl., was sued this year over its housing restrictions for registered sex offenders, the county decided to let such offenders legally live closer to schools, day-care centers and other places with concentrations of children, says the Wall Street Journal. In the mid-1990s, states and cities began barring sex offenders from living within certain distances of schools, playgrounds and parks to prevent crimes sometimes committed by offenders after their release.
Now, a growing number of communities are rejecting or scaling back such limits out of concern that they don't prevent repeat offenses, and, in some instances, may make sex offenders harder to track. A Justice Department study that examined Michigan's and Missouri's statewide restrictions showed they “had little effect on recidivism.” Other studies have found the vast majority of sex-offense cases involving children are committed not by strangers but by family members or others with established connections to the victims, such as coaches or teachers. About 30 states and thousands of cities and towns have laws restricting where sex offenders can live, while others are adding them.