Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Hooversville mulls sex-offender ordinance

The Tribune-Democrat

HOOVERSVILLE Borough Council is flexing its legal muscle when it comes to fighting sex crimes.

Hooversville is looking to become the third Somerset County locale to restrict where convicted sex offenders may live.

“Right now, we have it before our solicitor,” council President Kenneth Karashowsky said. “It does limit where convicted sex offenders can live in relation to playgrounds and the community building.”

He conceded the proposed law would force convicted offenders to live “outside of the borough,” adding that he believes sex offenders lose their rights when they commit a crime.

Benson Borough and Shade Township are two of the more than 90 localities in the state that have such ordinances. Johnstown and Ferndale Borough in Cambria County have similar laws.

It’s a growing movement that civil libertarians say raises legal questions.

“Prohibiting sex offenders that have served their time from living in the borough at all would almost certainly be illegal,” said Mary Catherine Roper, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union in Philadelphia.

Some ordinances have faced legal challenge, while others have gone unopposed. Ordinances that have been upheld are those that “restrict but not prohibit” where someone can live, Roper said.

Council is reviewing Ferndale’s ordinance before adopting its own, Karashowsky said.

“It’s part of our job to protect the community and this is one way of doing that,” he said.

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