HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A proposal before lawmakers would make it illegal for any registered sex offender to temporarily or permanently live within 1,000 feet of a school, childcare facility, playground or park.
The measure is in response to a Hawaii News Now report that found 28 sex offenders are registered as living in Oahu parks and beaches.
According to the sex offender database, Ala Moana Beach Park is home to four convicted sex offenders — the most of any park on Oahu.
A search of the online registry shows the problem isn’t isolated to the urban core and that there are dozens of sex offenders currently listed as living in parks and beaches across the state.
“It’s shocking,” said state Rep. Scott Nishimoto. “We have to make safe environments. Especially in schools and playgrounds.”
Since HNN’s initial report aired last July, one sex offender who lived at Ala Moana Park changed his address to another park in Kakaako while two others reported moving into the park.
Hawaii is one of 20 states that doesn’t restrict where a sex offender can live. There are also no laws that prevent them from going near schools, child care or parks.
Nishimoto said the measure “brings us in line with other jurisdictions, other municipalities, what other states are doing.”
State Sen. Karl Rhoads, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, agreed that sex offenders living in parks is an issue. But he says the proposed changes could cause problems by drastically limiting the places people on the registry can live.
“As a practical matter, I don’t know what we’ll be able to do,” Rhoads said.
“I know there are some sex offenders living in my condo tower, for example. There’s a park directly across the street so they would be required to move. I suspect there would be quite a number of people in that situation.”
Nishimoto anticipates a hearing on the bill in the next couple weeks.
He said, “We can flesh out all the arguments. But I really thing we have to err on the side of public safety with this one.”