Emily Badger is a former staff writer at CityLab. Her work has previously appeared in Pacific Standard, GOOD, The Christian Science Monitor, and The New York Times. She lives in the Washington, D.C. area.
The scheme was cooked up by a Daytona Beach homeowner's association.
Daytona Beach, Florida, is exceedingly clear about where registered sex offenders may not live: anywhere within 2,500 feet of a playground, a park, a child care facility, or a school.
Ordinances like this – the state of Florida has a similar one that sets the boundary at 1,000 feet – are designed to keep known predators away from where children naturally congregate. But there's another way to look at the letter of the law: Drop a playground into your community, and the sex offenders must go.
A neighborhood in Daytona Beach has actually just tried this, which law enforcement officials believe may be the first known instance of a homeowners association wielding a playground as a shield. The idea was the brainchild of a local resident, J. Ryan Will, who works by day a prosecutor in the State Attorney's Office. As he told the Daytona Beach News-Journal:
"I just started looking for ways to keep sex offenders out of the neighborhood and I knew from my job that there were residency requirements with respect to parks and playgrounds."
The homeowner's association voted to assess each home $100 to pay for the $27,000 playground, which sits right in the middle of the only stretch of the neighborhood previously unprotected by a park or school. The scheme is pretty ingenious, although it raises an awkward question about where the sex offenders can go... presumably to those places that can't pull together a fundraising drive for a playground.