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Council: Police, not judges, will decide if sex offender gets exemption

El Paso City Council Tuesday voted to amend the ordinance regarding exemptions issued to sex offenders.

Currently, judges provide some sex offenders with an exemption to an ordinance which regulates where they can live. Now, El Paso Police will be responsible for issuing the exemptions.

According to police, oftentimes, they didn’t even know about an exemption granted to a sex offender, or even more troubling, where that sex offender was located.

In 2007, El Paso passed an ordinance prohibiting sex offenders from living near places frequented by children. Every now and then, a convicted sex offender requests an exemption to be allowed to live near a church, school or park. It was up to the judge’s discretion whether to allow that exemption.

“We have registrants who are being granted exemptions and we’re (the police) not aware of it, therefore, (the sex offenders) are not living at the address we have on file,” said assistant police chief, Patrick Maloney.

Maloney told Council this makes it harder for police to find the registered sex offender. In fact, Maloney said police often learned about the exemption from sex offenders themselves.

Tuesday, El Paso City Council approved amending its sex offender ordinance so the police chief ultimately decides if that that person can live near schools, churches or parks.

Police will not simply give the person an exemption, they must fill out an exemption application, have an interview and go through a background check.

Police will then talk to homeowners in the area where that sex offender wants to live.

Once police approve the exemption, “there is no provision to revoke it, unless they commit another offense,” said Maloney.

According to Maloney, the only other city in Texas doing this is San Antonio.

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