CLINTON — The Clinton County Board of Supervisors are supporting a resolution urging legislators to repeal the sex offender residency requirement.

Iowa Code 692A.2A went into effect July 1, 2002, and contains residency restrictions for people convicted of sexual offenses committed against minors.

Since then, registered sex offenders have been prohibited from living within 2,000 feet of a school or daycare — unless they lived there prior to that date or if a school or daycare is newly located after that date.

So far, 22 counties have passed similar resolutions in the state of Iowa, issuing a non-binding request to legislators and the governor to repeal the restriction.

On Monday, Clinton County Sheriff Rick Lincoln and Clinton County Attorney Mike Wolf presented the board with the resolution backed by several agencies including the Iowa County Attorneys’ Association, the Iowa Sheriffs and Deputies Association, the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Abuse and the Prevent Child Abuse Iowa organization.

Wolf noted that prosecutors, sheriffs and other officials are not motivated by sympathy for those committing crimes against children, but by a concern that restrictions need to be designed to protect children and be more effective.

“Experts have told us that the way to protect children from sexual predators is not being met through the 2,000-foot residency requirement and I would agree,” said Wolf.

He commented that he has seen firsthand how the law has resulted in an offender not getting treatment because the individual could not be placed in an appropriate setting, and later re-offended.

Wolf said the restriction does not provide the protection that was originally intended because offenders may opt to not register at all, move to a new residence without notifying authorities, falsify an address or move to Illinois, where there are less restrictive residency requirements.

“I think it’s not fair to the bordering states and bordering counties,” Wolf said. “It creates those kind of inequities.”

He remarked that even sex offenders have balked at the law’s ineffectiveness.

“What’s often the comment is, ‘You’re more interested in where I’m sleeping at night, than where I’m prowling about during the day,” quoted Wolf. “The way the law is written, that is true.”

Wolf added the law creates a false sense of security in the community.

“People are believing that they can’t come within 2,000 feet of those places, they’re banned somehow from coming close to those places. That’s not the case,” he said.

Board Chairwoman Jill Davisson asked what protections would replace the law if it was repealed. Lincoln said a different and possibly better solution being proposed would create safe zones where children frequent, creating a perimeter that would prohibit sex offenders from entering except in limited and certain circumstances.

“I’m finding that sometimes the best way to prevent predators is to keep the heat on these predators from re-offending, let them know we are watching or monitoring, we’re aware of what they're up to,” Wolf said.

Lincoln commented it is more common that a sexual abuser will offend with a known child than to have a predator seek access to a child to abuse in a covered location, such as a school or daycare.

“The large majority of them choose a family member or friend of the family member to offend with,” stated Lincoln.

He said the stranger pulling up in the dark car and abusing somebody just walking down the street is rare.

Supervisor Dennis Starling asked if the sex offender registry requirements would be the same. Wolf replied the requirement to register as a sex offender would remain in place.

“I think registration is working and is effective,” he said.

Lincoln assured the board the agencies backing the resolution want to have alternate protections in place if the restriction is repealed.

“The comment that I hear is we need something that’s more effective than what this was. We don’t want it just to be done away with, with nothing to replace it. That’s why we want those safe zones,” said Lincoln.

Wolf said he would like to see more flexibility with restrictions on sex offenders where appropriate, making the punishment fit the crime while offering protection for the public. He noted that in some cases, such as keeping an offender from living in a secure treatment facility because it is too close to a school, the law “just doesn’t make sense.”

“It wasn’t thought through with all the consequences. I think there is a better way of doing it,” said Wolf. He reiterated that the agencies are not asking for the system to be soft on offenders, but be more effective in protecting children. He remarked that through the creation of safe zones and better identification of a possible threat available to parents, educators and the community, the danger could be greatly reduced.

Supervisor Grant Wilke agreed with Lincoln and Wolf, saying he doesn’t believe the restriction has made Iowa children any safer. Wolf reminded those in attendance that local information on the sex offender registry is available at the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office or online at www.iowasexoffenders.com. Wilke said better education for the general population is needed to empower the public and put pressure on sexual abusers, letting them know people are on alert in the community.