The San Antonio City Council's Governance Committee unanimously approved Wednesday an ordinance that would ban sex offenders from city parks.
The law would also keep offenders from living within a certain distance from city parks.
Public safety officials said the ordinance will help law enforcement further protect children.
“Kids are safe in the parks right now but, again, this is a tool that will help keep them even safer,” said San Antonio Police Chief William McManus. “We don’t want them even possibly exposed to sex offenders who may lurk around parks.”
The city has yet to determine how far the ban will extend, but it could be anywhere from 300 to 1,000 feet.
District 10 Councilman Carlton Soules is spearheading the effort and said the ban would come with several exemptions.
“If you currently live within that exclusionary zone, there’s a grandfather clause,” Soules said. “Nobody will be removed or asked to move out of their homes.”
Registered sex offender Steven Cote said the ban makes sense, but he’s concerned that it will keep him from doing something as simple as catching a bus downtown.
“Most of the parks downtown are not for children, they are green spaces,” he said. “The sex offender registration office is at 9th Avenue and Broadway. How do I get there without stopping at Travis Park to pick up the No. 9, 10, or 14 bus?”
McManus said Cote’s situation may fall under a hardship exemption the city is discussing.
Mayor Julian Castro said over the next month, officials will iron out the language to ensure the law does not go too far.
“It should be an ordinance that accomplishes the goal of keeping the parks safe, especially children in parks, but also is tailored narrowly enough so it doesn’t step over the line, so it doesn’t become unconstitutional or completely unreasonable," he said.
The city hopes to bring the ordinance up for a vote by the end of the year, but before that happens, leaders must decide what to do about the River Walk, which is technically a city park, but also a commercial tourist destination.
The city’s Public Safety Committee will be the next group to discuss the ordinance.