Editorial-Jan. 26, 2006

Parents must continue to be vigilant in protecting their children

By: Mae Rhine
   We’re not sure how much peace of mind will come from the latest Not in My Back Yard craze of banning sex offenders from our municipalities.
   West Amwell is investigating whether to adopt an ordinance that would restrict where convicted sex offenders can live in the township.
   The New Jersey State Police Sex Offender Internet Registry does not list any convicted sex offender living in the township at this time.
   But officials say if everyone else around the township has one, and it doesn’t, sex offenders may find West Amwell appealing.
   Most of the ordinances adopted so far in New Jersey restrict convicted sex offenders from living within so many feet — usually 2,500 — from a school, park, playground or day care center, including those based at home.
   And most cannot keep out a convicted sex offender who already owns property in the municipality. If that person rents, however, they can be given a deadline on which to move.
   But how much protection do these ordinances provide?
   Not much, according to Lambertville Police Director Bruce Cocuzza. We agree with him when he says, "If there’s a predator looking for children, they’ll be there."
   The bottom line is that parents have to be ever-vigilant to all types of dangers, including convicted sex offenders. Although a convicted sex offender may be banned from living near any place children may be, nothing prevents that person from driving or walking to find a victim.
   Some may say passing such an ordinance can’t hurt. But we are concerned it may give a false sense of security to children and their parents.
   If the law does pass and continues the domino effect of motivating nearby towns, such as Lambertville, which has three registered sex offenders, and Stockton, which has none, to pass similar laws, it certainly should not be applauded as a cure-all.
   It is only a small step of the larger lifetime journey of protecting our children.