Local News

Cumberland Town Bans Sex Offenders From Parks

Posted February 28, 2008 5:31 p.m. EST
Updated February 28, 2008 11:10 p.m. EST

— After a registered sex offender was seen hanging around a local playground in recent weeks, town officials passed an ordinance banning sex offenders from public parks.

"We don't want the potential for something happening," Mayor Pro Tem Joseph Dixon said. "It's not worth it to have one child molested."

Cumberland County ranks fifth statewide with 371 registered sex offenders living inside its borders.

Concerned residents flooded Town Hall with calls that the sex offender also visited the nurseries at local churches during services. Callers also claimed he left notes in a gas station bathroom soliciting sex with children, Town Clerk Cindy Burchett said.

"One lady said he commented on how pretty her little girl was, which made her very nervous," Burchett said.

The new ordinance, which passed unanimously, carries a penalty of a $500 fine and 30 days in jail for violators.

State law bars registered sex offenders from living within 100 feet of a school or day care, but Wade isn't the first town to enact tougher restrictions.

Officials in Woodfin, a town near Asheville, three years ago also passed a ordinance to keep sex offenders out of parks. Garner officials rejected a similar proposal the same year.

The American Civil Liberties Union has challenged the Woodfin ordinance in court. Katy Parker, the ACLU's legal director in North Carolina, said such local laws are too broad and punish people on the registry who don't pose a danger to children.

Wade officials sent a letter to sex offenders in the area informing them of the new ordinance, and they plan to post signs in the park next week.