A group of proposed laws is deepening the debate over the best way to deal with thousands of freed rapists, child molesters and other sex offenders in Arizona.
Five bills are aimed at tightening restrictions on registered sex offenders, including prohibiting them from living in certain areas. Another bill gives some offenders a break, relieving those convicted of consensual sex with a minor older than 14 from registration requirements.
State Rep. Deb Gullet, RPhoenix, who is sponsoring three of the bills, said that whenever discussions about sex offenders come up, things get complicated.
Unlike murderers, sex offenders get out of prison at an alarming pace — about 1,000 per year in Arizona. These felons have to live somewhere. But Gullet said she wouldn’t mind if it one day became legally impossible for them to live in the Valley.
Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon said he believes private prisons either in Phoenix or in rural areas could build small housing developments on their grounds where sex offenders could live away from the rest of society.
Both officials said they were concerned about "clusters" of sex offenders at apartment complexes.
But lawmakers probably cannot legally restrict housing options for otherwise free sex offenders, attorneys for the Legislature have decided.
To get around legal obstacles, Gullet has proposed HB2307, which would require property owners who rent to three or more registered sex offenders to post a $100,000 bond for each offender. The bonds would be paid only if the renter commits a sex crime.
Other bills include:
• HB2214, which lifts registration requirements for people convicted of consensual sex with a minor, provided the victim was 15 or older and the crime was a first offense.
• HB2135, which requires lifetime probation for sex offenders caught failing to register their addresses with authorities. Probation can allow for more restrictions than sex offender registration can.
• HB2452, which prohibits sex offenders from keeping a driver’s license unless they pay a $100 registration fee each year. The fee, established in October 2002, is to offset the cost of identifying and tracking offenders.
• HB2602, which requires community notification by local police of sex offenders classified as "Level 2" as is already required of "Level 3." The three-part classification refers to the offender’s likelihood of committing another sex crime, with Level 3 being the most likely.
There are twice as many Level 2 sex offenders as Level 3, and some say the requirement would be an overburden on local police departments.
• SB1307, which requires sex offenders being placed on probation by a court to be banned from living within 100 yards of a child care facility, a school, a public playground or a public swimming pool.
For more information, visit www.azleg.state.az.us.
By the numbers 8,829: Total number of registered sex offenders in Arizona
1,851: Number in custody
6,978: Number not in custody
Sex offenders sentenced after 1996 are designated one of three levels, depending on their assessed risk of re-offending.
Level 1: 1,572
Level 2: 1,982
Level 3: 802
No assigned level: 4,183 (sentenced prior to 1996)
Pending level assignment: 290