By Michelle Rotuno-Johnson
MARION - After two and a half months of discussion and revision, Marion City Council passed an ordinance Monday night making it tougher for sex offenders to live near where children play and congregate.
An offender looking to establish new residence in the city of Marion is now unable to live 1,000 feet from a school, park, playground, day care, library, public pool, YMCA or YWCA, Boys and Girls Club or city-operated recreational facility in the city.
Offenders living under the current state law are prohibited from living 1,000 feet from a school or day care. This new city ordinance does not affect them unless they establish new residency in the city. The city ordinance does not apply to offenders after their registration period is over.
“It does something maybe no one thought about, prohibiting them from being near these areas,” said council member Josh Daniels, D-at large, who brought the ordinance forward.
Daniels originally planned to ban offenders from living 1,500 feet from these areas. But when Regional Planning drew up a map of the 1,500-foot radius, Council and city leaders decided that distance may not hold in a constitutional challenge.
There were not many neighborhoods left for sexual offenders to live under the 1,500-feet rule.
The Marion County Sheriff’s Office keeps track of sex offenders once they get out of jail. Deputy Larry Yoder is in charge of registry, and said he and other deputies check in on the offenders several times a year to make sure they live at the address they gave the sheriff’s office.
If a sex offender moves too close to a school, Yoder said, he will find out when he enters the person’s address into the office database. He and Sheriff Tim Bailey said it can take weeks, or months, to get through all the civil paperwork when evicting someone.
Yoder said offenders who just got out of prison are most likely to move into a restricted area, as they may not be familiar with the laws.
“I tell them they need to move,” he said. “I give them a period of time.”
In the city, Law Director Mark Russell also is involved in the eviction process.
Daniels said it is up to the legislature to make a residency offense criminal. Currently, the only penalty for moving into a restricted area is injunctive relief (eviction). But, he said, Marion’s stricter ordinance may help “make the temptation less likely” for offenders.
“I think it does some good,” he said. “It doesn't clean up the most serious elements. The legislature needs to criminalize.”
Offenders who completed their sentence before 1997 do not have to register, Yoder said. Offenders convicted from 1997 to 2007 are classified under legislation called Megan’s Law, which divides sex offenders into three tiers: sexually oriented offender, habitual sex offender and sexual predator.
The tiers decide how long a sex offender must register with the sheriff’s office in his or her county:
- Sexually-oriented offender: Registration once a year for 10 years.
- Habitual sex offender: Registration once a year for 20 years.
- Sexual Predator: Registration every three months for life.
In 2008, the Adam Walsh Act went into effect. From Jan. 1, 2008, forward, sex offenders were divided into tiers with more aggressive reporting requirements:
- Tier One: Registration once a year for 15 years (10 years for juveniles).
- Tier Two: Registration twice a year for 25 years (20 years for juveniles).
- Tier Three: Registration every three months for life (this includes juveniles).
According to the Ohio State Bar Association, Tier Three offenders are considered the most serious. They include those who have been convicted for offenses such as rape, sexual battery, murder with sexual motivation, etc.
Tier Two offenders include those who have been convicted of offenses such as gross sexual imposition with a victim younger than 13 years old, pandering sexually oriented material involving a minor, and unlawful sexual conduct with a minor when the offender is four or more years older than the victim.
Tier One offenders include those who have been convicted of offenses such as sexual imposition, voyeurism and pandering obscenity.
Yoder said once an offender reaches the end of his or her registration, as ordered by the court, they no longer have to register as a sex offender.
He said schools, colleges and daycare's are notified if a sex offender moves in or changes addresses anywhere in the county. Other businesses and homes are notified only if a Tier Three sex offender moves within 1,000 feet of that address.
He said he has tabs on all registered offenders in the county but one, who he believes moved out of state.