New sex offender restrictions up for discussion at City Council

Nick Glunt

Kent City Council will use Wednesday’s meeting to discuss the potential of limiting sex offenders via city ordinance from living within 1,000 feet of “child safety zones” such as parks, schools and day cares.

“So the general idea would be to make it so Kent might not be the easiest community to live in if you’re a registered sex offender,” said Anthony Catalano, the planning commissioner spearheading the proposal, “and if it is, you’d better be very careful how close you get to the children that live there.”

Similar ordinances have passed in University City, Texas; Denton, Texas; and Menifee, Calif.

According to the Ohio attorney general’s website, there are 74 registered sex offenders within the city of Kent, with 27 living within two miles of Kent City Council Chambers. The most common offense among the 27 is gross sexual imposition. Unlawful sexual conduct with a minor ranks a close second; one of those unlawful sexual conduct offenses was nonconsensual.

Catalano said there are three levels of sex offenders, and part of the discussions will be which levels should be affected if the proposal passes. It’s possible, he explained, for a college student who pees on a tree to become a registered sex offender.

“I would like to see (council) take kind of a shotgun approach and throw everything out there,” Catalano said. “Let it be kind of an overkill, and then have the legal department say, ‘Hey, this might possibly violate someone’s constitutional rights. We can’t do this, this might not be enforceable, but this framework is good, so let’s write an ordinance on it.’”

Though Stephanie Alexander, president of Kent Junior Mothers, said she’s not familiar with the proposal, she thinks the ordinance would protect the children of Kent.

“I think it’s important to have the discussion,” Alexander said. “Children can’t always protect themselves; it’s our job to protect them, and that should be our first and foremost priority.”

Contact Nick Glunt at [email protected].