Dover Leaders Discuss Proposed Changes to Sex Offender Ordinance
DOVER, Del.- Michael Justice is a convicted sex offender and according to Dover City Police, he is living among 253 others in the area.
Justice lives within 500 feet of a day care center, but he has been fighting a year-long battle with city leaders so they will not force him out of his home.
The ACLU of Delaware filed a lawsuit on his behalf, calling the ordinance unconstitutional. Now, leaders are considering changing it.
"I don't believe just because one person decided to sue Delaware, the law should change to benefit him," said Deborah Hughes of Dover.
"We feel very comfortable and that the ordinance is written to grandfather two people who were specifically affected by it," said David Bonar, Dover city council president.
Bonar said leaders are proposing an amendment to an ordinance that would protect Justice and one other man from current ordinance.
"The original ordinance is dangerous because it gives the community a false sense of community," said Kathleen MacRae, executive director of the ACLU of Delaware. "In reality, it drives people who are registered as sex offenders underground. It separates them from their family, their support system, their work, counselors. It makes the community less safe as a result of the ordinance."
Not everyone is happy about the proposed changes to the ordinance.
"I'm terrified because of my grandchildren, and our neighbors kids and nobody feels safe anymore," said Julie Foster of Dover. "They would do better if they send them all to one place and keep them there."
"I feel as though as long as you are not an active sexual predator, then basically as long as you served your time in jail and paid your debt to society, that it shouldn't be held against you," said Jo Fretz of Dover.
Dover City Police Chief James Hosfelt said up until 2005, officers did not make notifications on sex offenders because they didn't know their whereabouts, but that has changed.
"The positive out of this is we were aware of that," he said. "The court makes those notifications. We in turn make those notifications to the public. They're aware of where these people live, where they go to school and where they work. I think that's a plus and we're fortunate with that."
Fortunate, Hosfelt says, because officers can help keep the public safe.