HUTTO, Texas (KXAN) — Pools, parks and playgrounds — some of the most popular places for children to hang out. In most cities, it’s places like these that a registered sex offender cannot live near.
But things in Hutto are different.
Currently, the city has no rules regulating where a sex offender can live — a big problem for the new police chief, Byron Frankland.
“We had a couple sexual assaults of children the first few weeks that I was here and I began to look for some of the local laws and ordinances on file. I was really surprised that we didn’t have one and file almost every other major city in the state of Texas has one,” the chief said. “We moved real quick on that and brought it to the attention of the city manager and council and they’ve been very supportive and running with this thing.”
The new proposed ordinance would prohibit sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a place where children gather. Hutto City Council approved it unanimously during its first reading on June 2, and are expected to vote on the final draft Thursday.
Chief Frankland says some sex offenders were targeting Hutto as a place to live because of the lack of restrictions.
“Information came in from one of our officers that is in charge of the sex offender registration program in that, among those people that target our children, they knew that there wasn’t an ordinance on file. So the underground current was, ‘Well you can move to Hutto because they don’t have anything.'” Frankland said.
Hutto currently has 31 registered sex offenders, 18 of which are child sex offenders. “If they’re already living there they are grandfathered in so when the ordinance passes, they won’t be kicked out of their house so that avoids that. But if they decide to move then they have to move to a place that’s within more than 1000 feet,” said Hutto Mayor, Doug Gaul
Those who break the rules would face a $500 fine. In addition, landlords who rent to sex offenders in these areas would also be fined $500 per day, although the city says that would only apply if the landlord knowingly rents to someone who has been convicted of a sex crime.
Some parents in the city are surprised by the timeline. “It’s hard for me to understand, because Williamson County is known for being one of the strictest as far as all the laws that they enforce and they’ve kind of left this one on the wayside. So what took so long to get here?” questioned Hutto resident and father, Kenim Meche.
The city says the answer is in the growth, pointing to Hutto’s change in population even over the past two decades. “We are growing tremendously,” said Eliska Smith, Hutto’s Public Information Officer. “As we bring new business, we bring development, we bring new people and that sometimes also brings other issues of a growing community.”
In 2000, the city of Hutto had 1,250 people. This year, the population hovers around 29,000.
City council will vote on the new ordinance on Thursday, June 15. If approved, it will go into effect on June 25.