New Berlin - Some time ago, the city drew perimeters around schools, parks and other places where children congregate and passed an ordinance making it illegal for sex offenders to live or hang around in those safe areas, but now aldermen have passed hefty fines to back that up.
A sex offender moving into a child safety zone or even going to the city's annual Christmas parades can be slapped with a $500 fine. If they do it again, the fine goes up to $800.
"The fine is higher than others, given the significance of the matter," said Mayor Dave Ament. "I hope it's enough."
The fine was set based on research by the police department the city attorney and the municipal judge, he said.
Fines for landlords
Landlords in child safety zones can be fined, too, if they knowingly rent to a sex offender or allow one to live on their property. They can check out renters on the city's sex offender registry and look them up online on the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access.
Only recently, New Berlin police dealt with a sex offender who was living with a friend in a child safety zone,. said Sgt. Dan Hanlon. "He most definitely is not residing there now."
The man moved, even without the threat of a fine.
That one was the only case.
"We have ones in question right now," Hanlon said.
Like many other communities, New Berlin bans sex offenders from living within 1,500 feet of a school, a park or other areas where children congregate. That's about five football fields.
Child safety zones also are set up around such places as the New Berlin Public Library, playgrounds, day care centers, recreation trails, the Hickory Grove Center, 2600 S. Sunny Slope Road, the New Berlin Community Center, 14750 W. Cleveland Ave., and specialty schools such as dance academies and music schools.
"It's very difficult to find a place to live," not only in New Berlin but elsewhere, Hanlon said. Sex offenders who lived in the city before the sex offender residency ordinance was adopted on April 26, 2016, and their homes ended up in child safety zones don't have to move.
The city has 18 registered sex offenders within its boundaries, Hanlon said, but the ordinance applies to all sex offenders.
Can't move in
Sex offenders can't even move into New Berlin anymore. However, those who already lived in the city when the council passed the ordinance can stay. If New Berlin residents are convicted of a sex offense, they can stay in the city, but not in child safety zones.
The city defines a sex offender as: "A person who has been convicted of or has been found delinquent of or has been found not guilty by reason of disease or mental defect of a sexually violent offense and/or a crime against children."
A crime against a child includes possession of child pornography, under the ordinance.
The ordinance not only restricts where a sex offender can live, it restricts where they are allowed to be.
For example, they cannot be at the New Berlin Christmas parades or similar gatherings, take part in Halloween trick-or-treating, wear a Santa Claus or Easter Bunny costume in a public place in relationship to Christmas or Easter, or wear any other costume reasonably expected to attract children in a public place.
There is latitude, of course, when it comes to being around schools, parks or child safety zones, said city attorney Mark Blum.
"The police officer has to look at the circumstances involved and the nature of the (original) offense," he said.
Sex offenders can walk past schools, but "If they are hanging around without any reason to do so, there is a possibility of a loitering violation," he said.
Sex offenders can be at schools if their children are in an event such as a play or concert, if they themselves attend the school or if they are there to vote. They can be in a child safety zone if they are attending a place of worship and with written permission and do not participate in child religious education.