In an effort to protect children from sex crimes, the Mat-Su Borough Assembly approved a new ordinance that prohibits sex offenders from taking up permanent residence within 1,000 feet of any school, daycare facility or public park.
Approved at the assembly’s July 18 meeting, the ordinance does not apply to sex offenders who live in a restricted zone prior to the new law. Sex offenders may not, however, purchase or lease a new permanent residence within the restricted areas.
Introduced by Assemblyman Ron Bernier, the law is applicable to all areas within the Mat-Su Borough that are outside the city limits of Houston, Palmer and Wasilla.
Over the next two months, all sex offenders within prohibited zones will receive a notice of the new law. Failure to receive a notification, however, is not a defense against violations.
Sex offenders can request exemptions to the restrictions if they believe enforcement of the law would violate a constitutional or statutory right under federal or state law.
The vote to enact the new law was approved along a 4-3 vote with Mayor Edna DeVries breaking the tie. Those voting against the ordinance were assembly members Dmitri Fonov, Dee McKee and Stephanie Nowers. Members voting for the restrictions were Rob Yundt, Ron Bernier and Mokie Tew.
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In voting against the ordinance, both Nowers and McKee said they supported efforts to protect children from sex crimes, but were concerned that the law would not be effective at accomplishing this goal. In particular, they raised concerns about forcing sex offenders to reside in certain areas of the Mat-Su Borough.
Bernier countered that the law is “a start,” and it sends a “strong message.”
In terms of state law, sex offenders in Alaska are not subject to community notification, nor is law enforcement obligated to notify the public of the presence of an offender in their area.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy has introduced legislation to address sex offenders. His H.B. 68 and S.B. 65 would mandate that all offenders moving into the state be listed in Alaska sex offender database.
Currently, sex offenders registered in another state do not always need to reregister in Alaska upon moving to the state. Child advocates have argued that his loophole has made Alaska a haven for sex offenders. According to the state database, Alaska has 3,372 registered sex offenders statewide. That is the most per 100,000 people of any state in the country.