January 2, 2018 – Local, Top Stories – Towns: Danbury CT , Greater Waterbury , Litchfield Hills , Lower Valley , Naugatuck CT – 6 comments
NAUGATUCK – Registered sex offenders will no longer be allowed on most borough-owned property.
The Board of Mayor and Burgesses unanimously passed an ordinance Tuesday that bans any person convicted of a sexual offense from frequenting borough-owned parks, schools, playgrounds, recreation centers, event centers, pools, gyms, sports fields, trails, passive recreational areas, open space land, or sports facilities.
The ordinance was inspired by a borough woman who was confronted by a man who had assaulted her as a child in a public space, according to Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess.
“One of our young citizens felt uncomfortable in our town,” Hess said. “It was very difficult for her to tell me what happened. Once I heard it and listened and talked to her, it took me about one-tenth of a second to figure out that this was the right thing to do.”
Under the new ordinance, parents who are sex offenders wouldn’t be able to attend their child’s ballgame, walk their dog at the dog park, or take a shortcut through the Town Green, even if no one else is there.
The ban lists a few exemptions, including any person who’s name has been removed from the Connecticut Sex Offender Registry.
Offenders would be able to enter a Child Safety Zone to vote, drop off and pick up their own children or meet an adult to discuss their child’s medical, educational or general welfare.
However, offenders would have to leave the zone immediately after completing one of those tasks.
The ordinance allows sex offenders to enter Child Safety Zones to complete their probation or parole or lawful employment requirements.
Burgesses Rocky Vitale and Mike Bronco asked whether the ordinance would open the borough up to legal disputes over constitutional rights.
As of 2009, there hadn’t been any legal challenges to the ordinances in Connecticut, according to a report by Sandra Norman-Eady, Chief Attorney with the Office of Legislative Research. Hess said he wasn’t aware of any challenges.
“Generally, courts have upheld ordinances based on this authority if they are reasonably calculated to achieve health, safety, and welfare,” Norman-Eady wrote in her 2009 report.
However, similar laws in other states, including California and Illinois, have been struck down by higher courts, according to media reports.
According to state law, anyone convicted of a criminal offense against a minor or a nonviolent sexual offense is added to the registry for 10 years for a first conviction or lifetime for a subsequent conviction. Those convicted of violent sexual offenses are put on this list for their lifetime.
Nonviolent offenses include voyeurism and sexual contact without consent. Offenses against minors include a teacher having sex with a student under 18, enticing a minor under age 16 through interactive computer use, or a 19-year-old having sex with a 15-year-old. Violent offenses include third-degree through first-degree sexual assault. The court can exempt convicted offenders with certain lesser offenses from the list.
Danbury was the first town in the state to adopt a similar ordinance banning child sex offenders from certain public spaces in 2006. By 2009, four other towns had followed suit, according to Norman-Eady’s report. Montville adopted similar ordinance in 2010 and Newtown in 2011.
Fines in those municipalities range from $99 to $250. Naugatuck could fine offenders who violate the ordinance $250.
The ordinance requires police to notify registered sex offenders of the new rules and created a registry of local sex offenders to be available to the public.
Signs designating areas as Child Safety Zones must be posted at the primary entrance to the area. The borough will also make a map of all the zones.
There are currently 38 registered sex offenders – all men – living in Naugatuck, according to the state’s sex offender registry. Of those, 19 are convicted of sexual crimes against minors.
“There’s not a single person in this room that don’t have a friend, a family member, a child, that has not been abused by someone, a predator,” W. Francis Dambowsky said during a hearing on the ordinance.
He said the ordinance wouldn’t violate the rights of someone who raped a young child.
“If that person can’t go see their child’s baseball game, then you know something, they made that decision long ago,” Dambowsky said.
Burgess Carl Herb said the state shouldn’t let sexual offenders out on the street.
“There’s only two places for people like that, in jail and then in hell,” Herb said.