Hatboro Seeks to Repeal Sex Offender Law

The borough is one of many Pennsylvania communities looking to take the ordinance off the books.

Not enforcing it isn’t enough, Hatboro borough officials said Monday night.

Having an ordinance in effect that limits where a sex offender could live in Hatboro could open the borough up for the possibility of being sued, officials said.

“By having it on the books you’re inviting legal challenge,” Council President John Zygmont said.

Following the direction of Mayor Norm Hawkes, the governing body is poised to repeal the local law during its Feb. 27 meeting.

"If we were to be sued by someone, our insurance company would not cover us," Hawkes said of the borough's insurance carrier, Delaware Valley Insurance Trust. 

Six years ago, Hawkes had proposed drafting the sex offender ordinance. As a way of bolstering Megan’s Law, the ordinance, in effect, prevents registered sex offenders from living near schools, parks and other locales heavily traveled by children.

“Times have changed in Pennsylvania. The Megan’s Law has been tightened up,” Hawkes said. “(Last year) the council decided to keep the ordinance in effect but not enforce it. I am suggesting that we repeal this ordinance.” 

Hatboro is one of many communities in Montgomery and Bucks counties to take such action following a May 2011 ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which determined a similar sex offender law in Allegheny County violated the state legislature’s intent behind Megan’s Law. 

Bridget Morawski February 14, 2012 at 01:49 AM
Seriously? Are we really, seriously considering striking down a sex offender ordinance? If it even was a question that the sex offender was too close to a certain area, then more likely than not they are breaking Megan's Law to begin with.
Concerned resident February 14, 2012 at 02:06 AM
I'm really confused. Isn't this a PA Law? So why would Hatboro be afraid of being sued? Its already a law. Right? I don't think sex offenders obey all the rules and stay in their little square of Hatboro like good boys and girls - because if they did - they wouldn't be sex offenders in the first place. They need to be watched and monitored! Really they should not be allowed back into society but if this law/ordinance is all we have, I would truly hope it would be supported and enforced!
Theresa Katalinas (Editor) February 14, 2012 at 02:18 AM
Carol, Megan's Law is a state law. The sex offender ordinance is something that more than 100 towns within Pennsylvania adopted back in 2005-2006. The local law (the one that Hatboro has oversight over) will be repealed later this month.
Concerned resident February 14, 2012 at 02:44 AM
Thanks Theresa. So why is there a problem with the ordinance? How do the sex offenders have any legal standing in the case they would be discriminated against for housing? This is what I don't understand.
Theresa Katalinas (Editor) February 14, 2012 at 02:48 AM
Hi Carol. A similar ordinance in Allegheny County (referenced in the article) was struck down by the state's Supreme Court. I believe precedence would come into play and towns who enforce a sex offender ordinance could be sued based on that outcome.
Concerned resident February 14, 2012 at 02:51 AM
Hmmm... I guess. but there are also a couple states which do not have a "Megan's Law" in place, where sex offenders can live anywhere they want. Although, the majority of states do have the Megans Law, so I guess this is where the difference is... but does this mean that in Hatboro, sex offenders would be able to live wherever they want and not report? This is my concern.
Theresa Katalinas (Editor) February 14, 2012 at 02:54 AM
I am not 100 percent sure, Carol. But, my sense is that sex offenders would still be governed by Megan's Law and would need to report through that registry. I think the main difference in Hatboro's ordinance was that sex offenders couldn't live too close to schools, daycare centers, etc.
Concerned resident February 14, 2012 at 03:01 AM
Oh ok, well I think the ordinance is a good thing that is necessary to keep our kids safe and it would be disappointing to see it nullified. Thanks for explaining Theresa!
Steven Long February 14, 2012 at 04:14 AM
Municipalities had set up laws, to discriminate against those who were previously incarcerated. This is not permissible, as it was not specifically outlined in Commonwealth Law, and not likely part of their original conviction. It would be like a Municipality saying you could not drive near a bar, if you had previously been convicted of DUI ... or saying you could not drive on Municipal streets if you were convicted of speeding.
Carol Inman February 14, 2012 at 05:14 PM
Fear of litigation? I understand it. But as a mother who's lived in Hatboro for 20 years, and for some time, next door to an alleged sex offender, my gut reaction is nausea. We had to tell the older children to watch out for this individual and help us keep the littles far away. That was a violation of their innocence and sense of safety. And ... I'll point out, this individual lived within an easy walk of Pennypack Elementary. I understand that it may be discrimatory, but children should come first!
Spanky February 14, 2012 at 11:30 PM
Hatboro Borough. Where pedophiles are welcome but not convenience stores!
Shelly Stow February 15, 2012 at 02:20 AM
Excellent questions being asked in the comments here. I suggest that someone make an attempt to do some comparisons between the areas where there are significant numbers of registrants living and where there are few or none. Another good comparison would be between towns that have no residency restrictions and those that do. You will be surprised at what you find. There will be no significant difference in the percentage of sexual assault from one to the other. There may be more crime in the towns where residency restrictions are strictly enforced because individuals who have been driven from society, housing opportunities, and employment opportunities will sometime unfortunately turn to theft. Residency restrictions have no redeeming qualities, only negative. They make communities less safe, not more. As a safety precaution for children, they are useless. The threat of sexual harm to children comes from within, not without. While you are on the computer checking the addresses of registrants in your neighborhood, Uncle Joe is in the den molesting Sally.
Bill Tompkins February 15, 2012 at 12:28 PM
To try to clear up some confusion, since Hatboro originally passed its ordinance, the state legislature has changed Megan's Law and pre-empted municipalities on this with state wide rules. The state Supreme Court has ruled these types of ordinances invalid (pre-empted by state law) and the borough's insurance company has warned that the borough could be sued (and likely lose) just for still having it on the books even though it can not be enforced.
Franz Perls February 15, 2012 at 04:33 PM
I have been pushing for years to get PA to pass a registry for DUIs. If the sex offender registry works so well in saving others, why wouldn't it work for drunk drivers? They kill and maim more citizens than most imagine.
Shelly Stow February 15, 2012 at 05:16 PM
The operative word being "if." Think about it. A registry is a list of names with the addresses where the people on it live as well as identifying information, often a picture. So you know their names. You know the address where they, probably but not necessarily, sleep at night. You quite possibly know what they look like. None of that will stop them from getting drunk in a bar or at home, getting in their car, and driving. How could it possibly work in saving anyone? The sex offender registry is just as useless at "saving" anyone; 95% of sexual crime is committed by people who aren't on the registry. Even if it did work, it would work, at the very most, 5% of the time. We instead need to spend our taxes on something that addresses the other 95%. And drivers convicted of DUI's are best deterred by devices on their vehicles that won't start unless an alcohol-free breath is blown into it.
Keyser Soze February 16, 2012 at 01:41 AM
T-H-E O-R-D-I-N-A-N-C-E W-A-S D-E-C-L-A-R-E-D U-N-C-O-N-S-T-U-T-I-O-N-A-L END OF STORY. There is no "I think we should keep it" or "We should put the kids first". Nope, zero, zilch, notta. Unless the HRA can take up a collection and add to their defense fund (that they are going to need when they get sued over driving businesses away from property owners) to settle when Hatboro gets sued over this, then it has got to go.
Bridget Morawski February 16, 2012 at 02:43 AM
Plessy v. Ferguson. Dred Scott v. Sandford. I could go on with the government saying things are constitutional when they aren't, and vice versa.
Keyser Soze February 16, 2012 at 03:05 AM
Do not confuse United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decisions with PA Supreme Court (SCOPA) decisions. There is an incredibly long list of cases that SCOTUS has said is constitional that the SCOPA has declared unconstitutuional for use inside PA.
Lance Mitaro February 16, 2012 at 05:23 AM
The more you dehumanize castigate, vilify, demonize and ostracize sex offenders, the less incentive they have to act like human beings.
Franz Perls February 16, 2012 at 02:29 PM
Shelly, You seem to have a better handle on this than most. You quickly caught my operative word of "if". By the way, if you are getting the 5% from the '94 USDOJ study, there is a more recent one that shows an even lower number done by a state. Can't remember which. Once probation violations, failure to register violations are removed the arrest rate keeps dropping. Also, the conviction rate is about half of the arrest rate. The lowest re-conviction rate of all crimes is murder. The highest are property crimes. If I remember, sex offenders are right after murderers as the second lowest with a re-conviction for the same type of crime. As for drunk drivers, they have a re-conviction rate of over 50%.


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