Iowa Residency Laws Pushing Sex Offenders to Live at Campgrounds

Iowa's laws restricting where sex offenders can live are causing some of them to reside at campgrounds around the state.

Some sex offenders are listing campgrounds in county and state parks as their home addresses because they are out of money, are struggling to find and keep a job and are facing state laws and town ordinances that keep them from living in many places.

"It's not uncommon," Linn County Sheriff Don Zeller said. "We've had them in all of the county parks and some of the state parks."

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Information about sex offenders at campgrounds has been forwarded to the Iowa State Association of Counties for consideration as a legislative priority.

State law bars sex offenders with crimes against children from living within 2,000 feet of a school or certified day-care center. Certain cities have even gone farther, banning offenders from living within 2,000 feet of swimming pools, libraries, parks or trails.

Linn County Supervisor Linda Langston said a more specific sex-offender classification system would help them re-enter society.

She said that a clearer system would distinguish between "true pedophiles" and young men who made a mistake with a younger girlfriend.

"We have to be prudent and protect people's safety," she said. "But we also have to recognize that people have to live somewhere. You stress their lives so much that they're going to make more bad choices."

Langston said strangers rarely molest children they don't know. She says that 77 percent of sex offenses take place inside the home, so fear of the "crazy man down the street," or a few spaces down at the campground, is rarely justified.