Attleboro Library and Police Hope to Ban Sex Offenders from Library
City officials have mixed reactions to a proposal to ban Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders from the library building.
A bold move by the Attleboro Public Library Board of Trustees to request that Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders be prohibited from the library has the city's Committee on Ordinances, Elections and Legislative Matters taking a close look at balancing First Amendment rights with the safety of children.
One by one, members of the library staff and board approached the committee Tuesday night to state their support for an ordinance that would affect the city's 65, Level 2 sex offenders and 15, Level 3 sex offenders. The State of Massachusetts categorizes sex offenders into three tiers – Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3. Levels 2 and 3 are considered the most severe.
"To our knowledge we have not had molestation in our library," Library Director Walter Stitt said. "What provoked this was not an incident, per se, but preventative medicine. The staff has noticed that over the years a few people on the Level 3 registry come into the library."
Attleboro Acting Police Chief Kyle Heagney said the department and the Police Commissioners are in support of an ordinance that would ban any Level 2 or 3 offender from entering the library. Heagney said he believes the ordinance to be "proper, reasonable and absolutely necessary."
Committee Chairperson Cherie Felos had several questions on how an indidvidual is categorized as Level 2 or Level 3, whether an individual can be categorized as a Level 2 offender because they were caught urinating in public (yes, they can), and if it is possible to be a Level 3 offender and never have assaulted a child (again, yes).
Attleboro Police Officer and Sex Offender Coordinator Susan Boisse said many things come into play in determining if an individual is Level 2 or Level 3, including whether they have a family history of sexual abuse, are an alcoholic or hava a drug addiction.
People who are found urinating in public are also considered Level 2 offenders in Massachusetts, according to Boise. And two of the 15 Level 3 offenders in Attleboro have never assaulted a child. Still, Boisse said she is in favor of the ordinance because offenders are often seen around schools, at baseball fields during games and around the public pools in the summer. One offender frequents the Park Street area to watch the girls at the New England Dance Academy while standing outside, Boise said.
There was a clear debate between committee members who did not want to infringe on an individual's right to enter the library because they were found urinating in public, and those who wanted to see the ordinance enacted and to include not only the library but all city-owned buildings, parks and playgrounds.
"I know our society is putting sex offenders in the class of being a leper," committee member Richard Conti said. "The library is a place to be free, and library staff are librarians not security guards."
"We are talking about the public facilities and this is a tool requested by the library staff," City Councilor Duff White said. "They have requested this as a necessary tool to make it a safe environment for the public."
"Any tool we can give our workers and the police to protect children, we need to do it and do it right," Councilor Brian Kirby said.
Conti went on to ask about security measures or deterrents that can be put in place at the library.
"The only thing I’ve seen is, when you walk in there is a rolling screen of sex offenders," Boisse said of another community library. "That is a deterrent for sex offenders to come in. I don’t’ have a problem with them going to the library, but (they should) not (be) in the children's section of the library.
Council President Frank Cook said he does not want to vote to move it out of committee until more input could be provided from the recreation department, the zoo staff and others who would be affected if such an ordinance were voted on by the committee and sent to the City Council for approval.