By Megan Wehring
KYLE — Out of more than 50,000 residents living in the city of Kyle, 68 are registered sex offenders. Kyle officials are working to implement a new ordinance that will define residency regulations for registered sex offenders.
One out of every 830 Kyle residents is a registered sex offender, one of the highest reports per capita in Central Texas, according to Kyle Police data. Chief Jeff Barnett presented the ordinance during the Kyle City Council’s regular meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 2.
The ordinance would amend the Kyle City Code to establish child safety zones that would make it unlawful for certain sex offenders to reside within 1,500 feet of premises where children commonly gather. These locations include, but are not limited to: public parks, private or public schools, daycare centers, playgrounds, arcades or youth athletic fields.
It would also define a child sex offender as a person who is required to register on the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Sex Offender Database because of a conviction involving a minor.
Registered sex offenders would also be restricted from decorating their home or having an exterior porch light on Halloween within 1,500 feet of a child safety zone, according to the proposed ordinance.
Not all council members applauded the proposed ordinance. Mayor Travis Mitchell was the only council member who was determined to shine a light on the families of registered sex offender, while also having an ordinance to follow.
“I just don’t know if it’s right for a child to feel unsafe because three blocks down the road,” Mitchell said. “There’s someone who, 10 years ago, was convicted of a crime that they paid the consequences for and they are trying to live there peacefully. I just don’t know if those registered sex offenders are what we should be thinking of as threats.”
Flores-Cale, agreeing with most of council, is in favor of the ordinance to protect the children who live in Kyle.
“I don’t know if I would be comfortable living next to a sex offender than hurting their feelings,” Flores-Cale said. “My heart goes out to those people who are in those bad situations. Why bend to the minority when all this ordinance wants to do is protect our children?”
Officer Dago Pates said the ordinance was inspired by a previous conversation with a new Kyle resident who is a registered sex offender. The resident decided to move to the city of Kyle instead of Cedar Park due to the lack of an ordinance, along with affordability and close distance to Austin.
Because neighboring cities like San Marcos and New Braunfels do not have a current ordinance relating to this matter, council member Yvonne Flores-Cale said she commends Kyle Police for bringing this forward.
“It confuses me that progressive cities like San Marcos and New Braunfels don’t have this ordinance,” Flores-Cale said. “I’m huge on being proactive. I do not want to be reactive. I don’t want something to happen and we need to respond.”
Barnett and his department will look into reducing the distance restrictions to 1,000 feet, upon Mitchell’s request. A first reading of the ordinance will be presented at the next council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 16, with revisions.