Wednesday, April 16, 2014

TX - Dublin passes its first sex offender ordinance

Police Chief Shawn Fullagar
Police Chief Shawn Fullagar
Original Article

04/15/2014

By JESSIE HORTON

Residents of Dublin have lived for years without a sex offender ordinance, but not anymore. On Monday the Dublin City Council heard from residents and Police Chief Shawn Fullagar on the issue.

Fullagar said when he discovered the city was without a sex offender ordinance, he began researching other cities with sex offender ordinances and policies in place. Armed with the information, Fullagar drew up an ordinance he and City Administrator Nancy Wooldridge presented to the council.

"When I discovered the city did not have an ordinance involving these situations I set about doing some research and working one up to present because your city administrator and I believed we needed one," Fullagar said. "I looked at ordinances in Coppell, Alpine, Stephenville, Keller and Carrollton. I wanted to make sure we got everything we needed covered, covered, without going too far."

The ordinance is similar to Stephenville's, restricting a sex offender's ability to live or own property within 500 feet of a school, public park, daycare center or other place where children gather.

The ordinance does not require sex offenders already living or owning property within those limitations to sell the property or move. Fullagar said of the nine to 11 sex offenders living within the Dublin city limits, none are currently living within 500 feet of those locations.

The ordinance restricts where sex offenders can be, and who they can communicate with. For example, the ordinance Fullagar recommended prohibits sex offenders from being within 500 feet of any event, meeting, celebration or gathering where minors are present.

"Another component of the ordinance will make it unlawful for a sex offender to approach a minor on the sidewalk, street, in any public area including local businesses and public buildings like the library," he said. "All of these components apply to all children or minors except those minors who are the offender's own children. The goal of this ordinance is to protect the children of Dublin, not to restrict people from being good parents to their children."

One resident, _____, spoke in regards to the ordinance. He admitted that at 19 he made a mistake. _____ said his life is different now and asked the council to consider an ordinance that allows him to continue being a part of his eight-year-old son's life.

"I know I made a mistake and I'm not trying to get around that," _____ told the council. "All I'm asking is that you make sure there is a way I can continue to be a part of my children's lives, that I can continue to support them as they grow and participate in local events."

Fullagar assured council members the ordinance would not limit parents like _____ from attending their children's events. He did say when at those events, any offender there to support their child cannot make contact with other minors.

"The maximum consequence for a city ordinance violation is a citation for $500," he said. "However, if the subject warrants contact from an officer in these situations, it could escalate into something more. But this ordinance would only be a citation."

After the discussion, council member Mac McMullen said he had reservations about voting for an ordinance that was "trying to regulate morality."

"I just have a problem voting in favor of an ordinance that would be, in effect, regulating the morality of others," McMullen said.

Fullagar said he didn't see it that way.

"I see it more like there are people in our community who have committed crimes involving minors," he said. "I see this as keeping those minors in our community away from someone who has committed such a crime."

Following a lengthy discussion, the council passed the measure 4-2 with McMullen and John Johnson voting against it.


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