Uniform, statewide decision needed on sex offender issue

The issue of where sex offenders should be allowed to live and whether they can reside near areas where children congregate is not one that should be determined on the municipal level. But this year, many New Jersey towns have taken it upon themselves to craft laws that restrict where the convicted offenders may live. In September, Sayreville adopted its own ordinance, and in Old Bridge they’re looking to soon do the same.

Questions posed by local officials at recent meetings are valid — “How much of the town should be off limits?,” for example, and “Does saying that one area is restricted mean that these people are encouraged to move into another neighborhood?” These questions need to be answered for New Jersey as a whole.

Mayor Jim Phillips was correct when he stated that the issue is headed for a courtroom somewhere. It is only a matter of when, not if, one of these municipal ordinances is challenged. The question is which municipality will be the one burdened to defend it. In the meantime, more of these bans are passing every week, and the topic has even popped up as a campaign issue in some areas.

The state is not only the appropriate place to legislate this issue, but it also has greater resources to defend its laws. And like the ban on using a hand-held cell phone while driving a few years ago, the state could add a measure of uniformity to the pedophile-free towns dotting the map, as well as the varying bans they have adopted. It’s time that our leaders in Trenton decide whether they’re in or out on this issue.