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City adopts new sex offender restrictions

NORTH LIBERTY– The City of North Liberty has adopted recent state-imposed restrictions on sex offenders.
At the Sept. 8, 2009, meeting, the North Liberty City Council unanimously approved a resolution stating anyone who has been convicted of a sex offense against a minor will not be allowed into the North Liberty Community Library without written permission of the Library Board of Trustees, nor will they be allowed to loiter within 300 ft. of the library grounds.
Earlier this year, Governor Culver signed the changes into law, which took effect July 1. North Liberty adopted the changes to comply with the new state restrictions. North Liberty’s policy defines the library grounds as extended from the main entrance of the library to the sidewalks that surround the library’s north, west and south sides, but also includes any rooms, structures or areas inside the Community Center during their use by the library.
A person classified as a Tier I offender– those who are considered “low-level” or low-risk offenders– may petition the Library Board for permission to enter the library by filling out a written application. The Library Board then reviews submitted applications at their regular meetings, which are open to the public. Even if the Board does grant entrance permission, it might come with certain restrictions as to time of day, computer use, study room use and any other restrictions deemed advisable by the Board.
Higher-risk Tier II and Tier III offenders, as well as those convicted of an aggravated offense regardless of tier classification, will not be granted the opportunity to petition for entry. For those persons, however, the library will allow designees to check out library materials on their behalf.
“We cannot make this applicable to (the rest of the) Community Center?” asked council member Gerry Kuhl.
Assistant City Attorney Eric Sittig told the council that while the law does restrict loitering within 300 ft. of the library grounds, everyone may use the Community Center as long as they have a legitimate reason to be there. It keeps cities from passing codes that overly-restrict offenders’ access to public premises, Sittig added.
“That seems to be an imperfection in the law,” said Kuhl.
City Administrator Ryan Heiar assured the council that all city employees undergo a background check before hire. Similarly, the North Liberty Library does a background check on all volunteers before they are allowed to serve at the library.
According to a January, 2009, report generated by the Iowa Sex Offender Research Council, over 1,000 incidents of child sexual abuse are confirmed or founded each year in Iowa; however, most incidents of child sexual abuse occur between children and adults they know, rather than with a stranger. In 2008, 2.5 percent of the 159 admitted incidents of child sex abuse in Iowa were committed by strangers, compared to 29.6 percent committed by family members, and 29.6 percent by other friends or acquaintances. Most such cases take place in the child’s or caregiver’s home, according to the report.
Since 1995, Iowa law has required sex offenders to register their name and address of residence for an initial period of 10 years, and convicted offenders must not live within 2,000 ft. of a school or childcare facility. Johnson County currently has 616 offenders on the registry, but 533 of those are residents of Oakdale Prison in Coralville, leaving 83 registered offenders living in other areas of Johnson County.