The Northern Colorado city of Greeley adopted an ordinance that will allow convicted sex offenders to live closer to parks and schools.
The move was taken to avoid a lawsuit similar to one last year in Englewood, Colo., in which the American Civil Liberties Union claimed that its restrictive residential laws for sex offenders made it practically impossible for them to live in city limits.
Previously, Greeley barred sex offenders from living within 750 feet of a school or park. The new ordinance creates a 300-foot buffer zone around those locations. Englewood had restricted sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of such places, meaning that 99 percent of the community was off-limits.
In August, a judge agreed with the ACLU that Englewood’s restrictions were unconstitutional and removed the law from the books. The city has appealed, estimating that it has spent $1 million in court fees so far.
Englewood and Greeley are two of only six cities in Colorado with restrictions on how close sex offenders can live to locations frequented by children.
The change in Greeley was partially in response to the legal action in Englewood, according to the Greeley Tribune. Research by the Colorado Department of Public Safety that says a sex offender’s proximity to schools and parks has no bearing on whether he will commit another crime also factored into the city’s decision.
Greeley Police Chief Tom Norton also said that having a stable living situation and a job helps with rehabilitation, according to the Tribune.
John Gates, the head of security for the Greeley-Evans School District and a member of the Greeley City Council, said he agreed with the change after much deliberation. He said giving sex offenders more freedom in where they live will prevent them from going “off the grid” when they can’t find appropriate housing outside the buffer zone.
If the ruling in the Englewood case stands on appeal, however, Greeley and other cities with similar restrictions would still run the risk of a legal challenge to having any restrictions at all.
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