City Council to Seek More Research for Mayor's Proposed Sex Offender Restrictions
After receiving the presentation from the city attorney's office and the Dallas Police Department that we told you about on Monday, the Dallas City Council affirmed its unanimous distaste for sex offenders but raised questions about whether the city should enact tougher restrictions on where registered offenders can live.
"We need to make sure that we're not watching one segment on the TV news and considering ourselves experts on a complex subject," council member Philip Kingston said, in reference to the May WFAA report that sparked Mayor Mike Rawlings' action on the issue.
The presentation outlined the city's current, limited restrictions on the movement of registered sex offenders and highlighted ordinances in other cities and states that might serve as a model for Dallas.
Jerry Allen wanted more from the presentation and seemed frustrated when informed by a DPD representative that there was no empirical evidence that imposing the restrictions would lower recidivism among registered sex offenders.
"I don't care about what the other cities have done," he said. Following their lead would make Dallas "nothing but parrots."
Research on the exclusion zones created by residency restrictions like those being considered has shown that, rather than reducing reoffense rates, the restrictions are actually more likely to create new problems.
One of those unintended consequences can be clustering of offenders in the few remaining areas where they can live. Rick Callahan was worried about that happening in his Pleasant Grove district were distance requirements to be imposed, a valid concern given the area's low rents and lack of density.
"Let's do this because it's going to do some good," he said, "not because it looks good."
The council universally supported looking at the issue in committee hearings, so that any eventual ordinance would be both beneficial and financially feasible for the city.
"What I'm hearing from this is that there's enough interest that we need to do more work on it," Rawlings said.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Observer's biggest stories.