Novak: Concerned about children during Halloween

Council discusses legislation that could stop sex offenders from decorating homes for trick or treat

WARREN — City Council is discussing proposed legislation that would stop registered sex offenders from being able to decorate their homes on Halloween and maintaining those decorations through the next day.

Councilman Alford Novak, D-2nd Ward, said he is concerned about the number of sex offenders living in rental properties in the city and their ability to use the holiday to attract children to their homes.

While the legislation being discussed specifically is aimed at convicted sex offenders’ actions on Halloween, Novak, during a council caucus meeting, expressed concern about the number of sex offenders living in the city.

The councilman said based on discussions he has had with sheriff’s deputies the city has the highest number of sex offenders living inside its borders than any other community in the county.

Mayor Doug Franklin questioned Novak specifically about whom he spoke to and whether it was about pure numbers of convicted sex offenders or the density of offenders per person in the population.

“It is important because we are trying to attract people to the city, not chase them away,” Franklin said. “We do not want to give a false impression of what is happening. We have not had a problem.”

Novak said he is concerned because of the number of registered sex offenders who live in the four block area around his home.

“There is one guy who sits on his porch in the morning when kids are getting on the bus going to the school and he is there when they are getting off buses in the afternoon when they are coming home,” Novak said. “It is fortunate that parents are there to drop their kids off and pick them up.”

Novak said he also would like to have legislation that would prevent sex offenders from living near bus stops.

“I have six school buses picking up children on my street in the morning and six in the evening when they return home,” Novak said.

Law Director Greg Hicks emphasized there are state and federal regulations that dictate what sex offenders can or cannot do and which agencies enforce those laws.

“We should stick to the issues that are within your current legislation,” Hicks said.

Councilman Larry Larson, D-1st Ward, questioned how the city would be able to enforce a law saying convicted sex offenders could not have decorations on their houses.

“No matter who they are, they have constitutional rights,” Larson said.

Hicks questioned whether it is wise to put new laws on the books, especially when the city has limited resources to enforce the laws.

“Laws do not stop anything,” Hicks said. “It is the ability to enforce the laws.”

Council President Jim Graham questioned how the city would restrict people from decorating their homes.

“The ACLU(American Civil Liberties Union) would have a field day with this,” Graham said.

Councilwoman Danielle Polivka, D-5th Ward, agreed it would be difficult to enforce and question whether the decoration ban would apply to other holidays.

“I don’t think it would work,” she said.

Hicks said the best protection is for neighborhood groups going out and driving around for several hours so people would know they are there.

Franklin agreed, saying it is important for parents to go out with their children when they are trick or treating, or for parents to take their children to one of the many organized Halloween activities given by churches and community groups that are alternatives to traditional trick or treating.

Novak will seek to place the legislation into second reading, so more discussion can take place.

The legislation would not be passed prior to Halloween 2016.