In an effort to prevent Barron from being a “dumping ground” for sex offenders, the Barron City Council approved this month an ordinance restricting those who could reside in the city.
In order to live in Barron, offenders must have lived in the City when the registry-requirement crime was committed. Property owners are prohibited from renting to sex offenders who do not meet this and other requirements.
In doing so, Barron is following suit from the likes of Rice Lake, Chetek, Spooner and other communities who have passed such an ordinance.
“Because Barron does not have an ordinance, it becomes a dumping ground for sex offenders,” city attorney Andrew Harrington told the City Council at its July 13 meeting.
Harrington said the ordinance change was introduced at the suggestion of police chief Joe Vierkandt.
As of July 27, 21 registered sex offenders resided within a 3-mile radius of Barron’s city center, not including those housed at the Barron County Jail, according to data at appsdoc.wi.gov.
By comparison, similarly-sized Chetek has nine sex offenders and Rice Lake, which has more than double Barron’s population, has 29 sex offenders. For Rice Lake, that is down from 41 offenders in 2019, the last time the city updated its sex offender ordinance.
There are some built-in exceptions in this type of ordinance. For example, offenders could live with family members and there is an appeals process for exceptions.
Barron’s police chief can grant temporary exceptions. Longer-term exceptions would need to be approved by a special committee consisting of the police chief, mayor, city council president, city attorney and a Wisconsin Department of Corrections representative.
Sex offenders are still not allowed to reside within 200 feet of any school, licensed day-care center, park, recreational trail or any other place where children are known to congregate.
Convictions that require someone to be registered as a sex offender include sexual assault, exposing children to harmful materials, exposing genitals, possessing child pornography, trafficking and many other offenses.