KYLE, Texas - It all started with several specific calls to the Kyle Police Department of inquiries from registered sex offenders, who, according to Chief Jeff Barnett, had similar requests.
"They would often ask what our residency ordinance contained. Realizing that our community didn't have an ordinance in place seemed to maybe attract more than the ordinary number of registered sex offenders to consider Kyle as a future home," said Barnett.
The Chief told FOX 7 the calls made it clear why Kyle was a prime spot.
"What they were telling our officer; well I called this city and they have an ordinance, and I called this other city and they have an ordinance, and I called the other city and they have an ordinance, we felt like we wanted to do something to protect our community, we wanted to make our community safe, for the children," Barnett said. "And that’s really what the ordinance is about, it’s not necessarily keeping people out, it is more about providing safe areas for our children to gather and play and enjoy the public parks and such."
The child safety zone ordinance puts a 1,000-foot buffer around those places of play as well as schools and libraries. It also prohibits registered sex offenders from making frequent visits to places inside those zones. Participating in Halloween, wherever they end up living, is not permitted.
"We discussed with council distance, from 500' up to 2,000' and the council ultimately consider something in the middle of that," said Chief Barnett.
Civil rights advocates argue the zones do not provide protection and can actually cause bigger problems.
"They create homelessness, and they also create clustering, because there are so few places for people on the registry to live, they will cluster in the small areas, where they are allowed to be, and then again you have people complaining there are too many people with sex offenses living in that area. So what happens is a lot of these people are forced into homelessness. And then you have people complaining there are too many homeless people," said Mary Sue Molnar with Texas Voices for Reason and Justice.
The ordinance has some exemptions; people already living in the buffer zones do not have to move. The law does not apply to minors or to medical facilities where an individual is seeking treatment.
There is no family loophole: for example, a sex offender cannot move in with their parents if they live inside a buffer zone. Violating the ordinance is a Class C Misdemeanor.