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Whitefish Bay considers residency restrictions on sex offenders

June 4, 2014

Whitefish Bay — Whitefish Bay is considering restrictions on where sex offenders can live in the village.

Whitefish Bay is one of five communities in Milwaukee County without a sex offender ordinance, along with Milwaukee, Shorewood, River Hills and Hales Corners. Now that Milwaukee is considering sex offender restrictions, Whitefish Bay officials want to prevent their village from becoming a safe haven for offenders.

Milwaukee Alderman Michael Murphy recently stated in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that suburban sex offender restrictions may partially explain why the city of Milwaukee is home to 90 percent of Milwaukee County's sex offenders. Murphy requested that the state Department of Corrections not place sex offenders in Milwaukee until a solution can be found to the disproportionate number of sex offenders in the city.

"If they do that, there's only so many places they can live in Milwaukee County," said Whitefish Bay Police Chief Michael Young, explaining that sex offenders are typically placed in the county where the offense occurred.

Young said he did not think Whitefish Bay was in immediate need of a sex offender ordinance, but suggested the village adopt one if Milwaukee pursues further limitations.

Resident Nancy Sturino disagreed with that approach.

"Why would you wait for Milwaukee to make its move and act against it?" she asked. "It's just not logical."

While some larger communities are able to ban sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school, a similar distance restriction in Whitefish Bay would in effect forbid sex offenders from living in the village.

The village board came to an informal consensus Monday night to pursue a sex offender ordinance restricting offenders from living within 1,000 feet or 1,250 feet of schools and public parks. The village administration will draw maps of those two options and distribute them to village trustees for further consideration at their next meeting on July 7.

Currently Whitefish Bay has three sex offenders, all of whom would be grandfathered in despite any new sex offender ordinance. Two of those offenders were found in possession of child pornography, and the third attempted to seduce an undercover officer posing as a 15-year-old boy on the Internet.

Resident Jay Saunders said he was shocked to hear the village doesn't have a sex offender ordinance, given the family-oriented nature of the community. He said one of the offenders lives a block from Whitefish Bay Middle School and the others are not far from schools, parks and areas where young children gather.

"I can't protect my daughter from everything in this world, but I can come to you and ask that convicted sex offenders not live within a block of Whitefish Bay Middle School," he said.

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