New bill would bar sex offenders from living near their victims

September 20, 2016 -  Atlanta - Georgia State Capitol, the Gold Dome.  Downtown Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia.  BOB ANDRES  /BANDRES@AJC.COM
September 20, 2016 - Atlanta - Georgia State Capitol, the Gold Dome. Downtown Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

A new bill in the state Legislature would ban registered sex offenders in Georgia from living within 2,000 feet of their victims or their victims’ immediate family.

State Sen. Lester Jackson, the sponsor of Senate Bill 35, said the legislation was inspired by a woman in Savannah who was surprised to find out her rapist lived near her home. Jackson said she was afraid to go for walks in her neighborhood because he would watch her from his porch.

If the bill were to pass, registered sex offenders would have to notify their supervision officer if they wanted to move, and the officer would make sure their new residence was not too close to their victims or victims’ family.

If a victim were to move within 2,000 feet of where his or her offender already lived, the restriction would not apply.

Critics of the bill are concerned that it may drive sex offenders into rural areas, and that it would restrict sex offenders’ property rights.

Under current law, registered sex offenders cannot live within 1,000 feet of churches, schools or day care facilities, but the law says nothing about them living near their victims.

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