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Sex Offender Residency Limits Approved

SANATOGA PA – Not here, not there, but not “not anywhere.”

Facing the justice system.

Offenders face new residency limits too.

A law to restrict – but not eliminate – places where convicted and state-registered sexual offenders can live within Lower Pottsgrove (PA) Township was unanimously approved Monday (May 4, 2009) by the township Board of Commissioners. It forbids offenders from living in any structure within 1,000 feet of a child care facility, open space, community center, or public park or recreational facility.

There was no public comment on the measure, passed during the board’s first of two monthly meetings at the township municipal building, 2199 Buchert Rd.

“We think these are reasonable restrictions that ensure the public’s safety” but also give offenders the ability to live within township borders, Commissioner Jonathan Spadt said. The restrictions “cover about half the township” he added; banning offenders outright, township Solicitor R. Kurtz Holloway advised the board earlier, likely would be deemed unconstitutional. “We think this is a good compromise,” Spadt said.

Approval of the law, which had been originally scheduled during February, had been put on hold until township engineers could create an official map showing where registered sex offenders could – and could not – legally live.

The map, created by Sanatoga-based Bursich Associates Inc., cost $8,000, but the work also benefitted the township by updating its locations for all housing communities and other improvements. The last revision occurred several years ago. The map aids police in proving to a court that specifically restricted addresses where offenders are found to be illegally living fall within banned zones “based on a map that meets professional engineering standards,” according to Holloway.

Board members declared their interest in such a law during their Aug. 21, 2008, meeting, after a representative of Oak Drive residents expressed concerns about what the board’s official minutes describe as “a sexual predator who was residing in their neighborhood.

“Pennsylvania’s “Megan’s Law” requires the State Police to maintain a registry of anyone who lives, works or attends school in the state and has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to certain child or youth sex offenses. The law, which took effect in 1996, is named for Megan Kanka, a 7-year-old New Jersey girl who was raped and murdered by a known offender.

Of more than 50 registered offerenders identified as living within Pottstown’s 19464, five are known to currently live within the township. It is unknown how, if at all, Monday’s approval of the law would affect them.

In a related development, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell on Tuesday (May 5, 2009) announced the state had applied for a$5 million grant funded by the federal government’s economic stimulus program to buy new technology and hire an additional  state trooper and two civilians to upgrade the existing Megan’s Law Registration System. The system, which tracks more than 14,000 court-designated sexual offenders and violent sexual predators, currently employs five troopers and 10 civilians.


Related (to the Lower Pottsgrove Board of Commissioners’ May 4 meeting):

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