The problem warrants concern, and is growing, Johnson County Sheriff Adam King said.
“We’re averaging two to four new sex offenders per week moving into the county as the cities continue to squeeze them out,” King said.
And it’s not just the cities within Johnson County.
“As a suburban county next door to a large urbanized county we’re getting a lot of sex offenders moving into the unincorporated portions of Johnson County,” Johnson County Commissioner Larry Woolley said.
The problem, King and Woolley said, is the authority cities have to pass ordinances governing sex offenders that Texas counties lack.
“Cities can institute 2,000 foot child safety zones around schools, churches, swimming pools, arcades and other areas where children tend to be, where sex offenders can’t live or work in those areas,” Woolley said. “We don’t have that authority in the county.”
That Tarrant and Dallas counties are mainly city filled with little unincorporated county area has compounded the problem, both said, prompting numerous sex offenders from those counties to relocate to Johnson and other area smaller population counties.
The problem, county officials and residents say, is that schools, churches and other such areas where children tend to congregate exist in unincorporated areas.
To that end, commissioners, during their Monday meeting, approved a resolution calling upon the state Legislature to address the issue during their next session in January.
“It’s only fair that counties have the same rights as cities in this issue,” Johnson County Judge Roger Harmon said. “The Legislature gives us little authority to regulate. We can regulate sexually oriented businesses, but not this.”
“This resolution is just asking the Legislature to give us the same authority cities have,” Woolley said. “I can’t imagine anybody thinking that isn’t right.”
King confirmed the numbers are growing.
“In January 2017 the sheriff’s office was dealing with 386 sex offenders,” King said. “The most recent count is 518 and those are just the ones we deal with at the sheriff’s office who are living in unincorporated county areas. That’s not counting the ones the Cleburne, Burleson and other city police departments are dealing with.