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The wrong approach

Published November 17. 2012 4:00AM

The town of Montville, which already has a troubled litigation history, may be setting itself up for another unwelcome and expensive visit to the courtroom if it insists on pursuing seemingly well-intentioned but ultimately ill-conceived ordinances designed to restrict where registered sex offenders are allowed.

The Town Council, which Wednesday night slightly reworded two separate ordinances that create so-called child and senior safety zones, now will hold public hearings Dec. 10. If councilors listen to reason they would realize that the measures have no bearing on a residential sex-offender treatment facility that opened in town Feb. 14 on the grounds of the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Institution, because the inmates housed there never leave the facility.

Montville engaged in a long but futile fight against the state's decision to open the center, expressing fears about security that have failed to materialize. By all accounts the center has operated securely and safely, with no reports of inmates leaving the grounds or otherwise causing problems for neighbors.

This newspaper agrees with objections to the proposed ordinances voiced by Councilors Dana McFee and Rosetta Jones.

"Certainly, there are concerns about fundamental, constitutional rights," Ms. Jones said about the senior safety zone ordinance. "I don't want to see the town get into some type of unnecessary litigation because someone has a suspicion."

The child safety zones would bar registered sex offenders from such town-owned facilities as beaches, parks, playgrounds and swimming pools. The senior safety zones would keep them from the senior center, senior buses, town-owned elderly housing and other elderly town functions.

The state legislature had been presented with a bill similar to the proposed Montville ordinance and has held off considering it. Retiring State Sen. Edith Prague, D-19th District, recently reintroduced the legislation.

The state American Civil Liberties Union says such restrictions violate basic rights, and has challenged the notion that seniors are targets of sex crimes. We agree, and urge both the legislature and the town to drop the proposed measures.

Montville has in the past spent considerable sums on legal fees involving unrelated tax and water disputes, and should not waste more taxpayers' dollars on lawyers.

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