New Mayor Wants To Monitor Sex Offenders

January 6, 2009 7:08:35 PM PST
On her very first day in office, Fresno's new Mayor is proposing a new city ordinance to monitor sex offenders who have served their prison terms and completed their parole.Convicted sex offenders who have served their prison terms and are on parole, may be fitted with GPS tracking devices, and monitored by state parole agents. But, when their parole is up. Those devices come off. Fresno mayor Ashley Swearengin thinks that's a mistake and wants Fresno Police to continue tracking them. "It's simply not acceptable that the City of Fresno cannot actively monitor the location of sex offenders that are residing in our community." She said.

At a news conference where she was joined by Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer, Swearengin's first act as Mayor was to put a proposed ordinance for police monitoring of sex offenders before the City Council. Under the ordinance, once the State Parole GPS devices come off, city devices would be strapped on. But Fresno attorney Jacob Weisberg who frequently handles civil rights cases, believes the ordinance is absurd.

"Of all the issues we're facing in Fresno, air pollution, unemployment, transportation that the first order of business is something that is just a pure stunt, because she's got to know that there's no legal basis, once a person has completed parole, the city has no legal basis for trying to institute this monitoring program. There's just no legal basis for it." Weisberg said.

But Dyer believes the city has the right to monitor sex offenders, even after they've completed their sentences.

"We're not going to be restricting their freedoms we just want to know where they are at, and so we believe what we are doing is constitutionally sound until the courts tells us otherwise this is the direction we're taking." Dyer said.

But Dyer acknowledged the more than three hundred paroled sex offenders now living in Fresno aren't really a problem. "Fortunately in the City of Fresno none of the individuals being monitored have re-offended in terms of sex acts."

But he and Swearengin fear the 70 others in the city who have served their terms and had their monitors removed could be a danger.

"Public safety is always going to be a top priority for me, insuring our families and children are safe here." Swearengin said.

Weisberg thinks Swearengin has just picked an emotional issue and sex offenders are an easy target.

"That's part of the stunt. Who's going to come to their defense. That's part of the stunt." Weisberg said.

Operation Monitor, Swearengin's first act as Mayor goes before the City Council next week.

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