Dover council updates restrictions on registered sex offenders

Councilman Anderson opposes amendment to city code, calling current ordinance ‘unenforceable’

DOVER — Dover Councilman David Anderson opposed an amendment last week that brought the city code into compliance with recently adopted state legislation regarding registered sex offenders.

City Council voted 7-1 to amend “Chapter 70 Offenses and Miscellaneous Provisions, Section 70-7” — with Councilman Anderson voting against it — but the councilman was adamant that the amendment could have been more locally focused and worded.

“Unfortunately, this ordinance is currently unenforceable, and I made the motion out of a necessity, but I do not plan to vote in favor of it because I object to the idea that the local government was pre-empted,” Councilman Anderson said, of the amendment.

“I just wanted to put that on the record because the problem, in my view, is the state law, not with a logical expression of the local government that child rapists shouldn’t be living next to daycares … I think that the problem is that this was created as a state law.”

The Dover Code was rewritten to mirror that of the state, which does prohibit sexual offenders from living within 500 feet of a school.

The state defines a school as “any preschool, kindergarten, elementary school, secondary school, vocational technical school or any other institution which has as its primary purpose the education or instruction of children under 16 years of age.”

David Anderson

Councilman Anderson, who represents the city’s Fourth Council District, still wasn’t satisfied with the way the new amendment to the Dover Code was framed.

“It has two issues,” he said. “One, it lets people out of prison way too soon, people that have committed these horrendous crimes, and it keeps people in prison who have committed lesser crimes way too long. When I look and I see someone who took and has continually sexually abused a child and has raped a child out in less than four years, that is what created this ordinance, because there isn’t a sufficient strength in the state law.

“The second issue that I have is I think a problem was created because the way the state defines sex offenders. Once again, the state has people on the sex offender registry who do not belong on the registry, but they’re afraid to take them off because they don’t want someone to say that they’re weak on the issue.”

Councilman Anderson added, “On the other hand, because of that, there are people who get mixed up and get into situations like this by the definition who should have a method to appeal their being on the registry, and people who were caught up in crimes and were added to the registry, in some cases decades after their offenses when the law was amended for a relatively minor offense.”

The amendment to Dover Code reads “Sec. 70-7. — Registered sexual offenders. 7 (a) Registration required. Sex offenders, as defined under the provisions of 11 Del. C., c. 41, § 8 4120A, shall register their places of residence and employment as required under the 9 provisions of 11 Del. C., c. 41, § 4120. 10 (b) Prohibition on residency and employment.”

Members of city council listened to the final reading of the ordinance regarding sexual offenders on Monday, Feb 25

“This amendment will bring the Dover Code into compliance with the amended Delaware Code,” City Council President Tim Slavin said. “It is a housekeeping to catch up with changes that were made during the legislative year.”

Councilman Matt Lindell, a First District representative, said that he understood Councilman Anderson’s issues after the final reading.

“I can understand Councilman Anderson’s concern about the lack of local input,” Councilman Lindell said.

“I just wanted to make sure, was there any input solicited by the state and toward local governments or at least this local government or the police department regarding the change in this statute?”

Dover Police Chief Marvin Mailey said he didn’t have any specific reports available in front of him at the meeting, but said, “I do see reports on (sex offender) violations all the time. We don’t have that many people who fail to follow the guidelines set forth by their probation or parole. It doesn’t (amount) to a huge number.”

Councilman Tanner Polce, who also represents the First District, provided his fellow councilmen with an answer.

“When the state was going to revise this specific section of the code, the League of Local Governments were included in the dialogue, but that was the League as a whole and we are a part of that League as members,” said Councilman Polce.

“I don’t want to speak for (Chief Mailey) or about police engagement, but throughout the entire iteration – and there were several iterations of this piece of legislation through the General Assembly – there were a number and number of stakeholder engagements.

“Frankly, this is in compliance to federal regulation and law as well, so this isn’t just willy and nilly out of the blue. This is kind of long forthcoming.”

Councilman Anderson still wasn’t satisfied.

“I think the problem is the state law, and I hope they pay as much attention to looking at revising the state law so it is a more just law as they did with pre-empting a logical expression of the local government for the safety of the citizens,” he said.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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