Bill would ban sex offenders from county fairs in Illinois

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The Whiteside County fair is this week and amidst the rides and events, safety is in the spotlight.

Illinois State Representative Mike Smiddy, Whiteside County State's Attorney Trish Joyce and Whiteside County Sheriff Kelly Wilhelmi held a press conference at the fairgrounds, Tuesday, August 12, 2014 to discuss HB4280, a bill that would ban child sex offenders from attending county fairs and would require them to stay at least 500 feet away from county fairs.

"This should be a place where you shouldn't have to worry about your kid becoming a victim," said Sheriff Wilhelmi.

Last year at the Whiteside County Fair, a Whiteside County Deputy recognized a registered sex offender.

"He was interacting with a young child," said Joyce.

The deputy reached out to Joyce but found out what the sex offender was doing was perfectly legal. Right now, in Illinois, it is illegal for sex offenders to work at or be associated with a county fair, but there is nothing in the law that says sex offenders can't simply attend.

"We just want to protect them when they come to places like this. That's why we feel like this is important to do this sooner than later," said Smiddy.

"Being the fact that the county fair is a magnet for children just like a playground would be or whatever school, this is what sexual predators target. They target areas that are rich in children and we want to make sure that they do not come to an area like this in order to target somebody," said Wilhelmi.

"You never know where she's going to run off to and I'd like to think that if she ran to find someone, they would help her, not hurt her," said Kara Scott, who brings her four-year-old to the fair every year.

Smiddy says he has bipartisan support for the bill and hopes to discuss the bill when lawmakers return to session.

In Iowa, a law states that registered sex offenders are not allowed to work or be a vendor at any city, county, or state fair or carnival when open, but can attend fairs unless their parole officer tells them otherwise.