By Michele Morgan Bolton Globe Correspondent June 05, Until now, Westwood police had no recourse if a registered sex offender chose to hang out near places where children were likely to gather. But with a Town Meeting bylaw approved in May, the town joined dozens of other communities in enacting protections for children in such places as parks, schools, camps, swimming pools, youth centers, and public libraries.
Advertisement Some psychologists and civil libertarians question the effectiveness of this approach. But in Westwood, the quest to establish these protected areas gained momentum when residents learned that two Level 2 or 3 sex offenders live and work in town, Silva said. But he added that this is not his primary worry.
Get Today's Headlines in your inbox: The day's top stories delivered every morning Sign Up Thank you for signing up! Silva was on the New Bedford Police Department in when a registered sex offender lured a 6-year-old boy from his mother in the New Bedford Public Library and raped him just steps away.
After that, the city established the first child safety zone bylaw in the state. Today, the chief said, 30 to 50 Massachusetts communities have comparable bylaws on the books, and they can include such regulations as the distance a registered sex offender can live from a day-care center, school, church, or other designated area. There are exceptions for offenders to attend worship services, vote, and patronize government offices, all during regular hours. The bylaw would not apply to those who were on the Sex Offender Registry or a similar list at one time but have since had their names removed.
One town that might soon consider heightened restrictions is Foxborough, which has been grappling with sexual abuse allegations for two years. Dozens of men have alleged that they were sexually abused as boys by William E.
Sheehan, a former teacher, Boy Scout leader, and town swim director. Advertisement Sheehan, 75, has never been charged, and a psychological examination last fall determined that he is too ill with dementia to be prosecuted. In November, the town established a temporary child safety committee to design local protocols and training policies for volunteers who work with children.
It is the first such municipal body in the state, said Selectman James DeVellis. Last week, DeVellis said that he is open to the idea of child safety zones and would volunteer to get it in front of town boards and committees, and eventually to Town Meeting. Laurie Guidry, a clinical and forensic psychologist and the president of the Massachusetts Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, said research has not found that approaches like child safety zones are effective in reducing sex-offender recidivism.
He noted that crimes do occur, and when they do, they evoke a powerful response. Reinstein said the rate of recidivism with child sex offenders is not significantly different from the perpetrators of other crimes. I think we did something good with this one.