View the article here
WENTZVILLE — An advocate for child sexual abuse victims and the police chief each spoke Wednesday against a proposal that would add to state-imposed restrictions and further limit where convicted sex offenders may live.
Increasing distances around places such as child-care centers and schools only gives parents a false sense that their children are safe from perpetrators, said Maggie Menefee, executive director for The Child Center in Wentzville.
In reality, statistics show children are more likely to suffer sexual abuse from someone they know, live with or love — not from a stranger, said Menefee, whose agency specializes in interviewing child sexual abuse victims.
During the last seven years, about 93 percent of child victims interviewed from 11 nearby counties knew their abusers, she said.
"If this was a good, productive law, I'd be standing up here saying, 'Man, we need this law. Give it to us,'" Wentzville Police Chief Robert Noonan told aldermen. "But it's a law just to make people feel better."
The debate at a Board of Aldermen work session Wednesday comes after the passage of similar laws in at least six nearby cities in the last nine months.
Last September, O'Fallon was the first city in St. Charles County to enact such a law. Officials doubled the buffer around child-care centers to 2,000 feet and set the restricted area around schools, libraries, pools and parks at 3,000 feet.
City leaders named the ordinance after Mike Arnold, a man who pushed for the law and whose daughter was molested by a man his family knew.
Dardenne Prairie and St. Charles followed. In St. Louis County, Florissant, Berkeley and Valley Park all now have tougher limits similar to those adopted in O'Fallon. Under the law, those already living in the zones before the effective date are allowed to stay.
St. Charles County has 207 active registrants on the Missouri Highway Patrol's sex offender registry. They include 14 who live in Wentzville.
The board decided Wednesday to get more information about how other cities enforce the laws before deciding whether to move forward with a bill. They are considering the measure at the request of Wentzville resident Christine Seeck.