Manchester Says “No” To Housing Restrictions For Sex Offenders

By: Gerri L. Elder

In Manchester, N.H., aldermen voted against a proposal that would make it more difficult for registered sex offenders to find housing. The measure would have banned convicted sex offenders from living near schools, parks and other places where there are frequently children.

The Manchester Police Department had urged the Public Safety, Health and Traffic Committee to reject the proposal because they felt that the housing restrictions would not prevent the sex offenders from re-offending, but could have put some of them on the street. The aldermen unanimously voted down the measure.

The New Hampshire Union Leader reports that Leo Pepino is unhappy that the proposal was not passed. Pepino is a former alderman and had lobbied vigorously for a measure that would keep registered sex offenders away from children. He vows to take the issue to the full Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

A group of anti-crime activists in Manchester are also unhappy that the Public Safety, Health and Traffic Committee chose to reject the proposal. They had hoped that the committee would vote to place the housing restrictions on convicted sex offenders. Nearby in Nashua, the outgoing mayor, Bernie Streeter shot down a similar proposal to restrict the housing choices of registered sex offenders.

The citizens of Manchester may feel a bit slighted by the committee, as a number of other communities in New Hampshire have actually passed housing restriction ordinances in order to keep convicted sex offenders away from kids. It might even be argued that with the housing restrictions that are being imposed in other areas, the registered sex offenders are almost being forced to move to areas that do not impose restrictions, such as Manchester. That can’t make the local anti-crime activists very happy or satisfied with the current situation.

According to the Union Leader, Manchester is currently home to about 300 convicted sex offenders. The Manchester Police Department requires these sex offenders to report to the station two times per year to update and confirm that their registration information is current. Officers also make several home visits each year to confirm the addresses of the registered sex offenders. They report that the rate of compliance is as high as 97 percent, which indicates that the current system is working.

Sgt. Scott Fuller has been with the juvenile division at the Manchester Police Department for seven years. He says that during that time only four convicted sex offenders have been arrested for committing another sex crime and in no case was the sex offender a stranger to the victim.

After rejecting the proposal, the committee said that they hope to have police do more home visits to check on the sex offenders, but they believe that the current system is adequate. They so adamantly denied the measure because they do not want to make sex offenders homeless or force them into hiding.