Registered Sex Offender Cited for Being in Park

By: Jennifer Rizzi Email
By: Jennifer Rizzi Email

UPDATE 9/27/13 @ 6:30 p.m.
HURRICANE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Police in Hurricane gave a man a ticket for being in a city park. That's because he's a registered sex offender.

The city passed an ordinance last year preventing sex offenders from going to parks, schools, sporting events and child safety zones.

Police say it's the first time they've had a chance to enforce the ordinance, since you can't spot a sex offender by sight.

They say someone saw Carol Lawson in Hurricane City Park and, knowing his background, gave police a tip.

Mayor Scott Edwards says Hurricane is the first city in West Virginia to enforce such a ban.

"If there are hundreds of kids at a ballgame or a soccer game, a sex offender doesn't need to be watching them," he said.

Edwards says he'd like to see the ordinance go statewide. But other city leaders told it raises major questions.

Charleston City Attorney Paul Ellis says Charleston Police can remove people from parks for conduct, but not for their background.

But parents in Hurricane say the ordinance gives them some peace of mind.

"It would be more protection for the kids," Alicia Easap said. "You wouldn't have to worry about someone like that destroying your kid's life."

HURRICANE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A new ordinance, recently passed by Hurricane’s City Council, prohibits sex offenders from going into Child Safety Zones.

The new ordinance will allow police to act if they see a known sex offender in a restricted area.

"I've definitely gotten online to see where the sex offenders live because I would not want my kids near anyone like that," Hurricane resident Melissa Warrick said.

According to the ordinance child safety zones include: daycare centers, parks, playgrounds, recreational areas and schools.

The ordinance was prompted by police who say some sex offenders were keeping an eye on children in nearby neighborhoods.

"When they pulled into the parks and saw those folks sitting with binoculars watching kids, that was the straw that broke the camel's back," Hurricane Mayor Scott Edwards said.

Some parents whom spoke with welcome the idea.

"My sister lives in Hurricane and has three boys who are very involved in sports. She has seen people who are on the registered offenders list at her boys' games," Tammy O’Callaghan who works in Hurricane said.

Now, Edwards hopes to take the new ordinance to the next level.

"I have had many people tell me, 'Mayor you need to work on this as a state law. We'll get with the Legislature and together I think we'll do that,’ ” Edwards said.

However, some are still wondering if the ordinance is legal.

"With the legality of it, I think the public has spoken. We'll stand up for that as a public. I think the whole community will rise up if there ever is an issue," Edwards said.

Hurricane's Chief of Police says they do plan to enforce the law immediately. If a sex offender is caught in a child safety zone, he or she will first be asked to leave. If they're caught again, it could mean up to 30 days in prison or a $2,000 fine.

WSAZ NewsChannel 3 645 Fifth Avenue Huntington, WV 25701 304-697-4780 WSAZ Charleston 111 Columbia Avenue Charleston, WV 25302 304-344-3521
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