[Hpn] Voorhees alters sex offender law

William C. Tinker wtinker@verizon.net
Thu, 24 Jan 2008 03:48:04 -0500


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http://www.courierpostonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=3D/20080124/NE=
WS01/801240368/1006/news01

Voorhees alters sex offender law

Thursday, January 24, 2008


By LISA GRZYBOSKI
Courier-Post Staff

VOORHEES=20
For more than two years, most of Voorhees was off-limits to any =
convicted sex offender who wanted to live in the township.=20

If they were caught residing within 2,500 feet of a school, park, =
playground or day-care center in the township, they faced up to a $1,000 =
fine or a three-month lockup in the county jail.=20

Today, however, most convicted sex offenders can move into any =
neighborhood without retribution because the township's residency =
restrictions now apply only to Tier 3, or high-risk, offenders who pose =
the greatest community danger. Tier 3 includes crimes such as rape and =
multiple offenses.=20

The change went into effect the last week of December when the township =
committee amended Voorhees' sex offender ordinance under legal advice.=20

"A lot of these ordinances in other towns have been struck down by the =
courts," said Howard Long, the committee's solicitor.=20

"Rather than be left without any protection, we decided to narrow the =
ordinance so it applies only to the worst offenders," Mayor Michael =
Mignogna explained. "We think it can withstand a legal challenge."=20

In 2006 and 2007, state Superior Court judges ruled that sex offender =
ordinances in Cherry Hill, Galloway Township in Atlantic County, and =
Lower Township in Cape May County were unlawful.=20

Megan's Law, a 1995 state law requiring sex offenders to inform local =
police where they live, trumped the local ordinances, the judges said. =
They also ruled the ordinances violated the constitutional rights of =
convicted sex offenders and punished them again for their crimes.=20

Cherry Hill and Galloway are appealing the court decisions and will =
argue their case at a March 5 appellate court hearing in Trenton. The =
ruling will likely have statewide implications.=20

Long wouldn't comment when asked if Voorhees itself was challenged over =
its sex offender residency restrictions. Neither would Mignogna.=20

But according to the New Jersey Public Defenders Office, the township =
was sued last October.=20

"There was almost no place a sex offender could live in Voorhees under =
the previous ordinance. There may have been one area where houses were =
scheduled to be built, but they weren't built yet and they were likely =
going to be expensive," said Michael Buncher, who's been closely =
following the sex offender ordinance issue statewide as deputy public =
defender with the New Jersey Public Defenders Office.=20

The office is representing a male sex offender, who is not deemed a high =
risk to the community, in the Voorhees case, he said. It plans to =
withdraw the lawsuit, however, now that the township's ordinance no =
longer applies to low and moderate risk offenders, Buncher said. Low and =
moderate risk offenses include crimes such as sexual assault.=20

It's unclear how many New Jersey municipalities have sex offender =
ordinances, but the estimate is more than 100, Buncher said. He couldn't =
say how many of the towns have been sued.=20

In the local area, municipalities with such ordinances include Winslow, =
Camden, Berlin Borough, Clementon, Laurel Springs and Waterford in =
Camden County; Franklin and Woolwich in Gloucester County; and Maple =
Shade, Medford, Palmyra and Moorestown in Burlington County.=20

Towns began adopting these sex offender measures en masse beginning in =
2005, said Ken Singer, a licensed clinical social worker and director of =
the New Jersey Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers.=20

"They don't make communities safer because they're based on flawed =
thinking. Most sex offenders don't attack strangers," said Singer, =
noting research has shown 90 percent of sex assault victims know their =
perpetrator.=20

The ordinances also often force offenders to move away from their =
support system -- family, friends, jobs, social workers and counselors =
-- which can put them more at risk of reoffending, Singer said. Some =
have ended up homeless after being ordered to move out of housing they =
could afford, he said.=20

Mignogna, however, believes sex offender ordinances scare away would be =
offenders because they show communities take the crime very seriously.=20

"The number one priority has to be the safety of kids," said Maureen =
Kanka, whose 7-year-old daughter, Megan, was murdered in 1994 by a =
neighbor with a history of sexual crimes. Her murder led to the adoption =
of Megan's Law.=20

She applauded Voorhees for keeping some of its ordinance intact despite =
the lawsuit.=20

"Towns are trying to come up with ways they think can best protect their =
residents. Hopefully, these types of ordinances will be upheld by the =
courts. If not, minds will get together and come up with something =
else," Kanka said.=20

Reach Lisa Grzyboski at (856) 486-2931 or =
lgrzyboski@courierpostonline.com=20


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<DIV class=3Dheadline>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV class=3Dheadline>Voorhees alters sex offender law<BR></DIV>
<DIV class=3Dsdate>Thursday, January 24, 2008</DIV><BR>
<DIV>By LISA GRZYBOSKI<BR>Courier-Post Staff<BR></DIV>VOORHEES=20
<P>For more than two years, most of Voorhees was off-limits to any =
convicted sex=20
offender who wanted to live in the township.=20
<P>If they were caught residing within 2,500 feet of a school, park, =
playground=20
or day-care center in the township, they faced up to a $1,000 fine or a=20
three-month lockup in the county jail.=20
<P>Today, however, most convicted sex offenders can move into any =
neighborhood=20
without retribution because the township's residency restrictions now =
apply only=20
to Tier 3, or high-risk, offenders who pose the greatest community =
danger. Tier=20
3 includes crimes such as rape and multiple offenses.=20
<P>The change went into effect the last week of December when the =
township=20
committee amended Voorhees' sex offender ordinance under legal advice.=20
<P>"A lot of these ordinances in other towns have been struck down by =
the=20
courts," said Howard Long, the committee's solicitor.=20
<P>"Rather than be left without any protection, we decided to narrow the =

ordinance so it applies only to the worst offenders," Mayor Michael =
Mignogna=20
explained. "We think it can withstand a legal challenge."=20
<P>In 2006 and 2007, state Superior Court judges ruled that sex offender =

ordinances in Cherry Hill, Galloway Township in Atlantic County, and =
Lower=20
Township in Cape May County were unlawful.=20
<P>Megan's Law, a 1995 state law requiring sex offenders to inform local =
police=20
where they live, trumped the local ordinances, the judges said. They =
also ruled=20
the ordinances violated the constitutional rights of convicted sex =
offenders and=20
punished them again for their crimes.=20
<P>Cherry Hill and Galloway are appealing the court decisions and will =
argue=20
their case at a March 5 appellate court hearing in Trenton. The ruling =
will=20
likely have statewide implications.=20
<P>Long wouldn't comment when asked if Voorhees itself was challenged =
over its=20
sex offender residency restrictions. Neither would Mignogna.=20
<P>But according to the New Jersey Public Defenders Office, the township =
was=20
sued last October.=20
<P>"There was almost no place a sex offender could live in Voorhees =
under the=20
previous ordinance. There may have been one area where houses were =
scheduled to=20
be built, but they weren't built yet and they were likely going to be=20
expensive," said Michael Buncher, who's been closely following the sex =
offender=20
ordinance issue statewide as deputy public defender with the New Jersey =
Public=20
Defenders Office.=20
<P>The office is representing a male sex offender, who is not deemed a =
high risk=20
to the community, in the Voorhees case, he said. It plans to withdraw =
the=20
lawsuit, however, now that the township's ordinance no longer applies to =
low and=20
moderate risk offenders, Buncher said. Low and moderate risk offenses =
include=20
crimes such as sexual assault.=20
<P>It's unclear how many New Jersey municipalities have sex offender =
ordinances,=20
but the estimate is more than 100, Buncher said. He couldn't say how =
many of the=20
towns have been sued.=20
<P>In the local area, municipalities with such ordinances include =
Winslow,=20
Camden, Berlin Borough, Clementon, Laurel Springs and Waterford in =
Camden=20
County; Franklin and Woolwich in Gloucester County; and Maple Shade, =
Medford,=20
Palmyra and Moorestown in Burlington County.=20
<P>Towns began adopting these sex offender measures en masse beginning =
in 2005,=20
said Ken Singer, a licensed clinical social worker and director of the =
New=20
Jersey Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers.=20
<P>"They don't make communities safer because they're based on flawed =
thinking.=20
Most sex offenders don't attack strangers," said Singer, noting research =
has=20
shown 90 percent of sex assault victims know their perpetrator.=20
<P>The ordinances also often force offenders to move away from their =
support=20
system -- family, friends, jobs, social workers and counselors -- which =
can put=20
them more at risk of reoffending, Singer said. Some have ended up =
homeless after=20
being ordered to move out of housing they could afford, he said.=20
<P>Mignogna, however, believes sex offender ordinances scare away would =
be=20
offenders because they show communities take the crime very seriously.=20
<P>"The number one priority has to be the safety of kids," said Maureen =
Kanka,=20
whose 7-year-old daughter, Megan, was murdered in 1994 by a neighbor =
with a=20
history of sexual crimes. Her murder led to the adoption of Megan's Law. =

<P>She applauded Voorhees for keeping some of its ordinance intact =
despite the=20
lawsuit.=20
<P>"Towns are trying to come up with ways they think can best protect =
their=20
residents. Hopefully, these types of ordinances will be upheld by the =
courts. If=20
not, minds will get together and come up with something else," Kanka =
said.=20
<P>Reach Lisa Grzyboski at (856) 486-2931 or <A=20
href=3D"mailto:lgrzyboski@courierpostonline.com">lgrzyboski@courierposton=
line.com</A>=20
</P></DIV>
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