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Few sex offenders moving
New law eased living restrictions
Hall County Sheriff’s Office Investigator mike Mazarky talks about the map at the sheriff’s office marking the location of sex offenders in Hall County. - photo by Tom Reed
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Only a handful of local sex offenders so far have taken advantage of a change in state law that lifted restrictions on where many of them could live and work.

Since Gov. Sonny Perdue signed the law May 21, only 14 of Hall County's 247 registered sex offenders have come into the sheriff's office to provide authorities with new address information, said Investigator Mike Mazarky. He estimated half of those were new registrants.

Previously, Georgia law prevented most sex offenders from living or working within 1,000 feet of churches, playgrounds and schools. The new law lifts those restrictions for people who committed their offenses prior to 2003.

In Hall County, that accounts for 78 percent of registered sex offenders.

Mazarky estimated as many as half of the sex offenders in Hall County are unemployed.

Most employers of low-skill labor in Gainesville are within 1,000 feet of a church or park.

"There were only one or two places in the city limits where they would not be violation," Mazarky said. "Now with the new law, I would imagine more people will try to get work."

In Gainesville, the Georgiana Motel on Atlanta Highway is the only pay-by-the week motel that was not within 1,000 feet of a restricted area. Currently, eight registered sex offenders live there. One person moved out of the motel after the law took effect, Mazarky said.

Larry Duttweiler, an attorney with the Northeastern Circuit Public Defender's Office, said he believes the change in the law could make the most difference in the living arrangements for sex offenders, several of whom could not live with their relatives after being released from prison because of the 1,000 feet restriction.

Duttweiler said sex offenders may find it hard getting work whether or not they are restricted from being near a playground or church.

"I don't know if it will change much with working," Duttweiler said. "It will change more with living, with people finally coming back home."

Forsyth County Sheriff's Investigator Cynthia Thacker said of the county's 82 sex offenders, "just a couple have taken advantage of the new law to move somewhere else."