Illinois pushes for tighter restrictions for sex offenders

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Reporter - Kathryn DiGisi

MARION, Ill. - Illinois lawmakers want to make sure your children stay safe.

They are doing this by tightening the reigns even further on registered sex offenders.

A bill that would prevent any registered sex offenders from being in the play place of your favorite fast food restaurants is on its way to Governor Quinn's desk.

The bill would not ban registered sex offenders from getting their food, however.

They could still go inside the restaurant or use the drive-thru, but crossing the threshold into the play place will soon be against the law.

In the state of Illinois, registered sex offenders are already prohibited from loitering within 500 feet of a park or a school, but legislators say it is not enough.

Brianna Halstead brings her son, Bently, to the park a couple times a month.

She is a cautious mom, despite the existing laws banning sex offenders.

"I always look around and make sure no one's watching and no one's coming around," said Halstead.

She admits never having considered the threat of predators in the play place.

"I would have never thought about that, because you're in public, you're around people," said Halstead.

10-year-old Karsen Yokana looks forward to the park every summer.

"Go on my scooter, go down the half-pipes, the rollin's...it's really fun," said Yokana.

She spends part of the summer with her grandparents in Marion.

They become regulars at the city park and at fast food restaurants.

"We get ice cream, take them to get fries," said her grandfather, George Martin.

Martin thinks the bill is great.

He says it is a no-brainer.  Play places should have been protected all along.

He thinks back to his childhood and says these days there is no such thing as being too cautious.

"When I was young, I could go out in the neighborhood and be gone all day long and parents didn't worry, but now, they can't even get out of sight," said Martin.

Martin and Halstead agree, the bill needs to be signed into law.

"Couldn't imagine something happening to him," said Halstead.

They say our children deserve to feel safe when they play.

Williamson County Sheriff, Bennie Vick agrees the law is great, but he says it does not mean that parents should feel completely comfortable with their children in public.

He says abductions often happen in the bathrooms of establishments like these. 

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