Town of Welsh rethinking new sex offender fees

WELSH, LA (KPLC) - The Lake Charles ordinance raising fees for sex offenders has prompted other municipalities in Southwest Louisiana to consider the same thing. But with Lake Charles now being sued over the new law -- many of those same towns are putting the breaks on their proposed law.

The new ordinance passed by Lake Charles City Council to raise the fee for sex offenders from $60 to $600 has some residents in Welsh worried the sex offenders will be moving their way.

"The sex offender registration program... The people were falling through the cracks and they weren't really following what they were supposed to be doing," said one resident.

"And that's a big concern. Because you don't know what kind of offenders are coming here. Like the lady said they could be right in your backyard and you have no idea," said Charles Drake, Welsh Town Alderman.

According to the Louisiana State Police Sex Offender Registry: Welsh currently has 10 registered sex offenders.

"This is not a one time offense... Some of them in a lifetime as many as 250 times. Maybe that's not the kind we have around here, but it is a concern for us," said one resident.

With a law suit now filed against the City of Lake Charles calling their ordinance unconstitutional, the Town of Welsh is carefully considering their next move.

"We have to see what can legally be done," said Welsh Mayor Carolyn Louviere.

Town attorney Rick Arceneaux has several legal concerns: "The ultimate question is can you impose that fee at all? It would be like if you said to drive in the City of Welsh - instead of just a state driver's license you have to pay an additional driving fee of $600 to drive," said Arceneaux.

Another road block: The Town of Welsh is governed by the Larson Act, which means the mayor's court can only handle misdemeanors. With sex crimes being a felony, they're now talking with other towns in the area about a possible parish-wide approach.

"It's one of those enforcement things, which makes it so hard to do. And we want to do the right thing to protect everybody," said Becky Hudson, Welsh Town Alderman.

"Sex offenders have rights too. And we have to be very careful what we do. We have to follow the law and we've deferred until we find out or get more information on what can be done because we want to be fair to all," said Mayor Louviere.

In the meantime, to protect themselves residents are encouraged to log onto the sex offender registry.

In addition to the State Probation and Parole Office, the Welsh Police Department also does checks to make sure registered sex offenders are compliant.

Copyright 2011 KPLC. All rights reserved.