New Braunfels officials have introduced an ordinance to restrict the residency of convicted sex offenders within certain areas of the city.
During an April 12 meeting, City Council voted unanimously to approve the first reading of the ordinance.
The ordinance in New Braunfels is similar to one proposed recently in Kyle and restricts where registered sex offenders may live or travel to through the establishment of child safety zones.
In New Braunfels, a child safety zone would be defined as premises where children commonly gather. That includes public or private schools and day care facilities, public or private parks, youth centers and arcades.
The ordinance would not only prohibit registered sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a child safety zone, they would also be restricted from going near the zones.
The ordinance has exceptions built in for certain registered sex offenders, including for those who were minors when they committed the offense; those who lived within a child safety zone prior to the establishment of the ordinance; those who reside in a jail or other corrections facility; or those who must attend counseling, religious or other applicable appointments within a safety zone.
When the ordinance to create child safety zones was proposed in Kyle in February, several issues were raised by City Council members, including the fact that a 1,500-foot distance requirement from the zones would effectively bar registered sex offenders from living in about 95% of the city.
Many residents came forward during subsequent Kyle City Council meetings to assert they had relatives who were registered sex offenders and were only convicted because the people they were with at the time misrepresented their ages.
Because of this, opponents of the ordinance said it was unnecessarily strict to people who simply want to rebuild their lives and are not recidivists.
There was no such opposition during the April 12 meeting in New Braunfels, and police Capt. Michael Penshorn said about 140 registered sex offenders currently live in the city.
"We've had a lot of people moving to the community that fit this category," Penshorn said, adding the New Braunfels Police Department is working with a geographic information system to create a heat map showing where child safety zones would be in the city.
Child safety zones proposed in New Braunfels restrict where sex offenders may live
New Braunfels City Council unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance to restrict residency of convicted sex offenders. (Courtesy city of New Braunfels)