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Councilman wants to keep sex offenders from parks

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Wilmington City Councilman Jason Thompson wants to keep registered sex offenders from visiting local public parks. Thompson says places like parks and public libraries can be playgrounds for sex offenders. Thompson jumped on the idea of banning them from parks, after similar legislation was recently passed in Mecklenberg County. Mandy Williams brings her son Zack to Hugh MacRae Park every chance she gets. She says having a child means you have to have eyes in the back of your head. "I think it's a mother's instinct in that you watch your kids and the things around you. You know the people who don't have children and who are casually walking around, sitting in places watching the kids," said Williams. She says her son Zack could manage to get out of her sight in a second, especially in large areas like Hugh MacRae or Greenfield Lake Parks. Williams said, "Safety wise, i like to keep him in the general facility, right in front of me. Most of the time i feel somewhat safe, but i am cautious about people around him." Councilman Jason Thompson wants all families to feel safe bringing their kids to local parks by keeping registered sex offenders out. Similar legislation was recently passed in Mecklenberg County. "Here's one more law that they have to follow, if their probation says they can't carry a hand gun, they can't have drug offenses, and they can't be in public parks. It's one more way to keep them away from the temptation that may have gotten them there in the first place," said Thompson. As far as enforcement, Thompson says it will have to be up to the public to visit the sex offender website and familiarize themselves with local offenders. Then if they spot someone in a public park, they can immediately call the police. If an ordinance is passed, it could mean more peace of mind for moms like Williams. "I would absolutely feel more safe, and less cautious of people around me, and probably more aware of faces that i could acknowledge and recognize," said Williams. According to Wilmington police, there was an incident involving a repeated sex offender named Christopher Paul Atherton at Empie Park about two years ago involving a two year old, but there have been no reported incidents in any local parks since that time.

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