City Mulls Buffer Zones to Ward Off Sex Offenders

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. April 27, 2005 — -- The city is trying to declare itself off-limits to convicted sex offenders. It is considering one of the most restrictive laws against convicted sexual predators in the nation.

"I believe it's imperative, as far as government, to do everything we can to protect our children," said Mayor David Dermer.

Under the proposed law, convicted sex offenders would not be allowed to live within 2,500 feet of Miami Beach's 15 schools and 38 parks. The buffer would make almost the entire city off-limits, excluding two tiny neighborhoods.

The new legislation is a response to the recent slayings of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford and 13-year-old Sarah Michelle Lunde, two Florida girls who were allegedly abducted and killed by convicted sex offenders.

Last week, the Florida Legislature passed a law requiring some convicted sex offenders to wear a global positioning system device after their release from prison to monitor their whereabouts.

In Ocala, north of Orlando, fear compelled some residents to post fliers, warning that 38-year-old Clovis Claxton, who molested a girl 14 years ago, was living in the community. The man was so distraught, he committed suicide and was found with one of the signs beside his dead body.

'Got to Find a Happy Medium'

"You've got to find a happy medium," said Cpt. Dennis Strow of the Marion County sheriff's office. "You can't have a vigilante posse out there running the streets."

It is not clear if the new law designed to squeeze sex offenders off the streets will be allowed to stand. A similar law passed in Iowa has been declared unconstitutional, while the same law in Arkansas has been upheld.

Some criminologists say buffer zones do not keep sex offenders away, but they do make good politics.

"Everybody wants to do something," said Jack Levin, professor of criminology at Northeastern University in Boston. "So they take the short-term, easy solutions that don't work, but will get them re-elected."

While Dermer says the 36 registered sex offenders who live in Miami Beach have not caused any problems as yet, he says he just wants to err on the side of caution.

ABC News' Jeffrey Kofman filed this report for "World News Tonight."