Burlington is the latest Vermont city to look at the idea of limiting where sex offenders can live. Barre and Rutland have already passed resolutions banning convicted sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of schools and public parks.
So far no one in Burlington has proposed a specific idea like that, but the four councilors behind the ordinance say they want to get a conversation going.
"Initially I thought let's just mimic what Barre and Rutland are doing now," says councilor Paul Decelles, a Republican from Ward 7. "Then, having discussed it with some other folks we said, 'You know what, let's just start a dialogue here.'"
A proposal presented to the city council simply asks Burlington's Public Safety Committee to take a look at some type of residency restriction. There are currently about 400 such laws in 23 states, and the sponsors of the resolution say they might be able to pull ideas from those pre-existing ones.
"Some of the things in my opinion maybe aren't restrictive enough," says Decelles. "Others on the council, others in the community maybe say it's too restrictive."
Burlington Police Chief Mike Schirling says he is glad Burlington is looking at the idea but it's too early to know if it would be a right fit for the city.
"We're fortunate that we have one of the most advanced and longest standing special investigative units in the state of Vermont with CUSI right here in Burlington," says Schirling. "So the resources we bring to bear relative to education, prevention, investigation and monitoring sex offenders are pretty robust. But there's always room for improvement."
Schirling says Burlington does not have a high concentration of sex-offenders and he's not aware of any issues with people living close to schools. But the sponsors of the ordinance say this is the issue people are talking about and they want to act now before anything happens.
The ordinance asks for the Public Safety Committee to report back with ideas by mid-September.
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