Amarillo discusses living restrictions for child sex offenders

C hild sex offenders in Amarillo could face restrictions on where they live in the near future.

T hat's according to a proposed ordinance city commissioners discussed during Tuesday's Work Session. The new ordinance would prohibit registered child sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of any school, playground, daycare or anywhere children congregate within city limits.

"If they're living there today, they won't have to move if they're within one of those 1,000 foot zones," said proponent of the ordinance, City Commissioner Jim Simms. "But, if they do move they'll have to qualify, I mean, they'll have to adhere to the ordinance."

Simms, and other commissioners , feel the ordinance would better protect the children of Amarillo.

" I t's not all kinds of sexual offenders, it's those that involve children," he said. "I think we have a huge responsibility to protect our children as best we can, so I think it's much needed," added Simms.

But not everyone feels the ordinance will have positive benefits. Local lawyer, Jeff Blackburn feels the proposed law is just another restriction of our freedoms.

"Every time that we restrict the freedom of movement of a fellow citizen, even a fellow citizen who's done something terrible, you know what we're doing?", asked Blackburn. "We're restricting our own freedom."

Blackburn also said he felt the law would accomplish nothing, protecting the children no more than they already are and that it would, in fact, actually do more harm than good.

"All it's going to do is harm a handful of people who are already being pushed around, kicked around and shoved aside by society anyway," added Blackburn. "We say we want people to rehabilitate themselves and then we fix it and rig it so that they can't. We start small like this and we end up big and horrible."

But most commissioners, like Simms, support the ordinance and feel when voted upon, it will pass with little opposition.

"I'm surprised we've taken this long," said Simms.

No action was taken on this ordinance during Tuesday's meeting, but it will be addressed and voted on next week.