Elkhorn City Council approves drafting ordinance restricting where sex offenders live
ELKHORN—The Elkhorn City Council will vote in October on an ordinance that would restrict where sex offenders can live in the city.
On Tuesday, the council voted 4-3 to approve drafting of the ordinance that would require offenders to live at least 2,500 feet from facilities for children, such as schools, parks and licensed daycare centers.
Mayor Brian Olson was an alderman when talk of such an ordinance began in 2012 due to what he calls a “volume problem” to which the Department of Corrections does not have a solution.
“Why I brought this to the table is (because of) citizen-based complaints,” Olson said. “Walking through the community, people are not happy with the situation. They feel they are getting dumped on.”
The Department of Corrections and Health and Human Services place sex offenders in the county where their crimes were committed.
There are 62 registered sex offenders living in Elkhorn—more than in any other Walworth County municipalities, Olson said.
Alderman Scott McClory vehemently opposed the ordinance, saying it would block out the entire city.
“Where are they going to live?” McClory said. “There's a difference between restrictions and elimination."
McClory and aldermen Hoss Rehberg and Gary Payson Sr. voted against drafting the ordinance.
“I'm not advocating that we should have more sex offenders,” McClory said. “I'm saying we have a system in place that the DOC (Department of Corrections) says don't change.”
The city does not have an ordinance or restrictions for where sex offenders live, Olson said. Each offender has court-ordered restrictions he or she must abide by once released from jail.
A proposed ordinance was stalled in the Legislative and Regulatory Committee because the three-person committee could not come to a consensus on the issue, Olson said.
Alderman Tom Myrin shared concerns that business owners and citizens have expressed to him.
“Nothing good can come of all these people being in one place,” Myrin said. “I've seen it, and I've seen how they act, and it's absolutely not where I want to take my family. People don't feel comfortable even working downtown in some places because of this.”
The aldermen went back and forth arguing about the ordinance for about 30 minutes. Some said they have heard residents complain while others said the no one has raised the issue.
Safety, monitoring and where offenders would live all were discussed.
McClory, who works for the Walworth County Sheriff's Office, said there is a zero recidivism rate and Elkhorn has had no problems with offenders. He said the ordinance could lead offenders to become homeless, making it harder for authorities to monitor them.
Elkhorn Police Chief Joel Christensen said restricting registered sex offenders is “not a public safety concern” and the focus should be on potential future offenders.
“I think we all know we should be more concerned about those who have not committed an offense yet versus those who are on the registry,” Christensen said.
Offenders who live within 2,500 feet of the previously referred to “child safety zones” before being convicted and before the ordinance passing would be exempt. The draft will include an appeals process where offenders can contest where they might be placed.
If approved, the ordinance would go into effect within 60 days, Olson said.