By Carol Christian
Reflecting a national trend, an East Texas community has redrawn the boundaries of where registered sex offenders can live.
The Nederland City Council on Monday unanimously approved an ordinance amendment that prohibits registered sex offenders from residing within 1,000 feet of places where children typically gather.
Previously the community about 90 miles east of Houston specified that registered sex offenders could not live within 1,000 feet of schools, daycare centers or parks.
Now, in addition to the original prohibition, the amended ordinance rules out sex offenders living within 1,000 feet of libraries, churches or various other facilities, including studios with instruction in the arts or sports that offer classes for four or more children, said City Manager Chris Duque.
"We have a lot of dance studios and twirling academies," Duque said by phone.
Also on the list are private recreational parks that include public pools, playgrounds or youth athletic fields, he said.
In addition, registered sex offenders in the community of about 17,600 will be required to post signs at their residences between 4 p.m. and 11 p.m. Oct. 30 and Oct. 31. The signs, to be maintained and issued by the Nederland Police Department, will let children know that the residence is not participating in Halloween and will likely include the Nederland Police Department's phone number, Duque said.
"We will print those yard signs and distribute them to registered sex offenders and monitor (sign recipients) to make sure they're complying," he said.
When the original ordinance was passed in 2006, there were six exceptions to the restrictions, including the circumstance in which a school, daycare facility, or park was constructed or located within 1,000 feet of a sexual offender's existing residence, according to the online municipal code for Nederland.
The ordinance hadn't been reviewed since it was passed, Duque said.
While residence restrictions are popular, there's little evidence they work, according to the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, based in Beaverton, Ore.
On its website, the association states, "There is no research to support that adult sex offenders' proximity to schools or parks leads to recidivism."
Duque said he was aware of that argument but said he nonetheless viewed the amended ordinance as a help in protecting the community.
"That's one of our main jobs as a government organization," he said.
The amendment is expected to take effect in a few days, subject to final approval by the city's legal department, Duque said.
Those who were complying with the existing ordinance are not subject to the amendment, he said.