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In February, The Tribune bemoaned the Legislature's wrong-headed refusal to change the 2000-foot rule for sex offenders. That followed a plea the previous December from prominent law enforcement groups including the state's county attorneys to throw out this failed law.
"What's wrong with a system that let's such a clearly failed solution as the 2,000-foot rule for sex offenders live on indefinitely because lawmakers believe repeal will show them to be soft on crime?," The Tribune wrote. "What is it that makes them think the public doesn't understand? How long can they claim to be tough by backing a plan that actually weakens law enforcement?
"The momentum opposed to the 2,000-foot rule keeps growing. County attorneys and sheriff's departments are now joined by city councils in their fight to fix the law. Far from making children safer, the rule that restricts those convicted of sex crimes against children from living within 2,000 feet of a school or daycare center is actually destroying safeguards."
Here, the editorial writers from the Sioux City Journal similarly eschew the 2,000-foot rule. But they also see little hope of enlightening legislators in the coming session.
By the Sioux City Journal
The Iowa Supreme Court recently ruled that a controversial state law requiring convicted sex offenders to live at least 2,000 feet away from a school or child care center was constitutional.
Justices, however, made no ruling on the law's effectiveness nor did they weigh in on local enforcement's ability to keep up with the number of transient offenders this law undoubtedly creates.
In its ruling, the court said the state law did not violate the constitutional due process rights of Benjamin David Groves. The case began in Polk County.
According to court documents, the 29-year-old Groves was convicted of lascivious acts with a child in 1997. In 2002, the Iowa Legislature passed the 2,000-foot residency requirement.
Earlier this year, we questioned the flawed nature of the law. While crafted with the best of intentions, we don't believe this law is meeting its goal of protecting children. In fact, it might even be counterproductive. We argued that the Legislature should repeal it.
However, now that the court has once again upheld the law we just don't see that happening. After all, the next legislative session will take place during an election year. It would take an unusually brave - one might even argue stupid - lawmaker to tackle this issue while running for re-election.
That's too bad.
Criticism of the law both here and in other states where such measures are being considered has increased. Law enforcement officials with unquestioned expertise in the field have joined victim advocacy groups such as Prevent Child Abuse Iowa and the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault in expressing concern the legislation isn't meeting the goals for which it was created.
As we wrote earlier this year, the most persuasive arguments we have heard include:
- The law results in frequent moves - many of which are not reported to law enforcement - and a more transient lifestyle by sex offenders, making it more difficult to track their whereabouts and diminishing the credibility and reliability of the state's sex offender registry. That the number of unaccounted-for sex offenders in the state has more than doubled since the law took effect provides evidence of that.
- As a result, the law requires manpower for enforcement that is disproportionate to the protection it provides and takes resources away from other important areas.
We understand the fear that grips society when it comes to children and sex offenders. Everyone wants to protect their kids. But those who know how to protect us best almost universally believe this law does nothing to help and, in fact, may make things worse.
A 2,000-foot law may make us all feel better in the short term, but it will take more than a magic buffer to keep kids safe. If repealing this law isn't an option, we hope our lawmakers will be hard at work this session developing other methods to improve safety.