Sex offender limit could be repealed


Posted: Monday, September 26, 2011 12:00 am                      

Sex offender limit could be repealed
By Joan Hellyer
Staff Writer Calkins Media, Inc.

The Falls supervisors have begun laying the groundwork to repeal the township’s sex offender ordinance.

The supervisors voted last week to advertise the repeal of Chapter 193 — Sex Offender Residency Restrictions. They are expected to vote on the repeal in October. 

The ordinance was adopted about six years ago. It restricts convicted sex offenders from residing or living “within 2,500 feet of any school, park, amusement park, skate park, roller rink, arcade, skating rink, athletic fields, movie theater, playground or child day-care facility” in the township.

Similar restrictions in an Allegheny County ordinance were declared invalid by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in May because they could amount to creating “localized penal colonies” for sex offenders.

Falls is among a handful of local municipalities that have or will consider repealing their respective ordinance in response to the state court ruling.

“It’s an issue of pre-emption,” Michael P. Clarke, the Falls supervisors’ solicitor, said last week.

“The monitoring of sex offenders is pre-empted by state law,” he said, because the issue has to be handled at the state level.

Towns would risk facing legal challenges if they continue to enforce their own local ordinances now that the state court ruling has been handed down, Clarke said.

“It goes way beyond lawsuits. Police who try to enforce the ordinance could lose their livelihoods, too,” the solicitor said.

Township authorities have never enforced the ordinance since it was enacted six years ago, Clarke said. Those responsibilities were left to state probation officers, he said.

In addition to the Falls supervisors, the Newtown Township supervisors also are expected to consider repealing their municipality’s sex offender residency restriction ordinance in October.

The Doylestown Township supervisors voted to repeal their ordinance in August.

Joan Hellyer: 215-949-4048; email: jhellyer@phillyburbs.com; Twitter: @BCCTintheknow

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