Petition asks state lawmakers to reconsider sex offender residency law

MIDDLETOWN, Pa. (WHTM) – Dawn Knull found out that a convicted violent sex offender lived within 500 feet of the Middletown High School, and she wanted the borough to enforce its ordinance that prevents offenders from living that close to a school, daycare or playground.

Knull learned that a Supreme Court ruling says that it is unconstitutional to have a residency restriction.

She began circulating a petition, asking state lawmakers to revisit the issue and maybe create a new law that will give parents peace of mind.

“We have to protect our children,” Knull said. “If we don’t, who will?”

State Rep. Mark Rozzi was abused by a priest when he was a child. He says a few of his friends who were abused by the same person have committed suicide.

Rozzi says he continues to fight for those who can’t defend themselves and he supports an effort to come up with a new law.

“I stand by this movement,” Rozzi said. “I will stand shoulder to shoulder with anyone who wants to revisit this important issue.”

Kristen Houser, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, says her organization supports victims but not residency restrictions.

“Our tendency is to focus on the people who have already been caught,” Houser said. “That distracts us from focusing on the majority of the offenders who are not caught or not on the list.”

Houser says it is important to establish communication with children and talk about the importance of not keeping secrets and the dangers associated with social media and the internet.

Knull says she needs 200 signatures and anyone in Pennsylvania can sign it at change.org.

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