December 19, 2014

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No Halloween for sex offenders in Amherst, councilman will propose

Phil Van Treuren

Phil Van Treuren

AMHERST — City Councilman Phil Van Treuren wants to ban sex offenders from taking part in the city’s Halloween festivities.

Van Treuren, R-at large, is working on the resolution, which he hopes to introduce Monday at the Police and Fire Committee meeting. He will ask that it be sent to the full Council with an emergency provision for immediate passage.

If passed, the legislation would keep registered sex offenders from participating in trick or treat throughout the city.

Van Treuren, who is seeking re-election, said the specifics are being ironed out, but he hopes to model it off of an ordinance passed in the village of Orwell on Tuesday.

Orwell’s ordinance prohibits registered sex offenders from participating in trick-or-treating by ordering them to leave all exterior residential, decorative and ornamental lighting off from 4 p.m. until midnight. Sex offenders also must refrain from answering the door to children who are trick-or-treating.

The penalty for violating the ordinance would be a minor misdemeanor.

Orwell’s ordinance also prohibits sex offenders from decorating his or her front yards and the exterior of the residences with Halloween decorations, but Van Treuren said he thinks that part of the ordinance might be a violation of the First Amendment, and he is not looking to include that prohibition in his resolution.

Van Treuren said he proposed the legislation to give police another tool to combat child enticement and abuse.

“I don’t want the residents to get the idea that their kids are unsafe … but I think it’s just a common-sense law,” he said.

Amherst is home to 11 registered sex offenders, according to the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office’s sex offender registry. The offenders live throughout, and their crimes range from rape to gross sexual imposition and pandering obscenity.

The registry indicated that seven of the 11 sex offenders committed crimes involving a minor.
Van Treuren said he is suggesting that the legislation ban all registered sex offenders from trick-or-treating, regardless of whether they had targeted a minor, but he said that would have to be discussed with city Law Director Anthony Pecora.

Pecora said, while the idea is a good one, he would have to examine Ohio Revised Code to determine whether the resolution is legally sound.

Van Treuren said he is waiting for the legal opinion of Pecora, and he has been in discussions with the Amherst Police Department.

“I don’t want to do anything without carefully considering it first,” he said.

Van Treuren said it is not illegal for sex offenders to pass out candy unless it is specified in their probation.
Amherst Police Chief Joseph Kucirek said he doesn’t think that the proposal is a bad idea, but he is waiting for a ruling from City Council to determine how to proceed.

“It’s new and cutting edge, and possibly controversial, but other cities have passed it,” he said.

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @ChelseaMillerCT.