Lawmakers look at changing sex offender laws - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Lawmakers look at changing sex offender laws

Dubuque (KWWL) -- As of November 1, 2008, a total of 5,045 individuals are registered with the Iowa Sex Offender Registry, according to their web site. 65 are registered in Dubuque County, 86 in Johnson County, 233 in Black Hawk County and 271 in Linn County.

Iowa lawmakers have until next July to update sex offender laws to comply with a stricter federal law, or risk losing $450,000 in law enforcement funding. At the same time, lawmakers are also talking about changing a controversial rule banning sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet schools and daycares.

Many daycare providers say they don't want to see the 2,000 foot law lifted. Kim Fisch runs an in-home child-care out of her Dubuque home.

"I would disagree with that change. I don't want sexual predators in my neighborhood," Fisch said.

Under the current rule, sex offenders can only live in about 20% of Dubuque. Child abuse protection agencies say that's actually creating problems, causing offenders not to check in and concentrating sex offenders in certain areas.

"The basic idea behind it is that people somehow because if they live just a block away from a school are somehow going to be grabbing a child or sexually offending against a child. This has certainly happened, but it's extremely rare," Steve Scott, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Iowa said.

Prevent Child Abuse Iowa says 80 to 90 percent of child abusers know their victim, so money would be better speant on education.

"Basically we could have children being protected by those close to them instead of trying to spend all our time protecting against strangers who may never have any likelihood of offending," Scott said.

Some advocates would like to see "child safety zones" replace the 2,000 foot rule, banning sex offenders from going on certain properties, like schools and daycares, without permission. For some, that isn't enough to feel at ease.

"I feel like if they're in my neighborhood they could stalk a child in my care, and possibly follow them home, find out where they're at and harm them," Fisch said.

The federal law that Iowa will look at in January has several parts. Two of the most controversial: Making sex offenders register for fifteen rather than the current ten years with more detailed personal information, and forcing minors convicted of certain severe sex crimes to register.

Online Reporter:  Jamie Grey

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