Sex offenders to face tougher laws - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Sex offenders to face tougher laws

June 26, 2006

Albany-- Sex offenders are fighting a tough new Georgia law that would put severe limits on where they work and live and they got some good news from a judge Monday. The law is supposed to go into effect Saturday. Critics say it's so restrictive, many sex offenders won't be able to find any legal place to live.

Complaints worked for 8 sex offenders in Georgia.  Monday, a federal judge in Atlanta issued a ruling that temporarily blocks them from having to move. Lawyers will try to extend that ruling to all 10,000 Georgia sex offenders.

The sex offender registry lists more than 220 sexual offenders in Dougherty County. One could be living right next door.

"I see it on the tv, a lot of the time looking at the news and them talking about sex offenders in the neighborhoods and everything and I wondered well is there any around here anywhere," says Alma Tumer.

Alma Tumer wonders who's who in her Albany neighborhood because she has a seven-year-old son. "If one come in here messing with my baby, they're in trouble," says Tumer. She's not afraid to say she's overprotective so she wasn't thrilled when we showed her a picture from Georgia's sex offender registry.

We asked, "Have you seen him before?" "Let me see.  Yeah, I seen him," says Tumer.

The registry shows a man convicted of 1st Degree Sexual Assault of a Child is one of Tumer's neighbors, not a good feeling for her. "That's bad. All these grown folks out here and you got to go and mess with a child," says Tumer.

District Attorney Ken Hodges hopes a new law restricting where offenders work or live will reduce the number of sexual offenses against children.

"These criminals are monsters and they need to be treated as such and if it means tracking them with GPS's, if it means limiting where they live, then I'm all for that," says Hodges. But Hodges admits enforcement will be difficult, especially in bigger counties that must keep hundreds of offenders a thousand feet away from thousands of school bus stops. Those against the law say it would be nearly impossible for offenders to find places to live.

"In Dougherty County, there will be places where they can live and still be in compliance with the law. I think it's restrictive but you have to be restrictive," says Hodges.

"They got to stay somewhere but what we got to do is keep our eyes on them wherever they stay if it's close to us," says Tumer. One is a little too close for comfort for Tumer so she now has her eyes open much more.

"You better believe it," says Tumer. She says she'll do anything or support any law to make sure her her little boy stays safe. "Im telling you. That little 7-year-old son of mine, boy let me tell you, let somebody mess with him, I'd have a holy fit," says Tumer.

Many also worry that the new law could draw more sex offenders to rural areas and Ken Hodges says it could cause more offenders not to report but more resources should be reallocated to beef up tracking.

Lawmakers began working on the law last year after two sex offenders were arrested for killing two girls in Florida.

A hearing is scheduled later this week on a complaint filed by a sex offender in Dougherty County who, according to the new law, would have to move from a home he just bought.

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