Under the Dome

Sex offenders should be formally banned from NC State Fair, agriculture official says

The sun sets during the N.C. State Fair Friday October 25, 2013, in Raleigh, N.C.
The sun sets during the N.C. State Fair Friday October 25, 2013, in Raleigh, N.C. ehyman@newsobserver.com

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler’s department says the state needs tougher laws banning registered sex offenders from the N.C. State Fair.

Sex offenders were arrested around the State Fairgrounds twice during last year’s fair. A Raleigh man was charged with flying a drone over the fair, and a convicted child molester was charged with posing as a state ride inspector to get into an area reserved for children’s rides.

Joy Hicks, a policy analyst for the Department of Agriculture, raised the issue Thursday to an agriculture study committee led by state legislators. She said Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison, whose department oversees security at the fair, does a "phenomenal job" and is "very aggressive" in keeping kids safe at the fair.

But she called on lawmakers to do more. Current state law bans registered sex offenders from "any place where minors gather for regularly scheduled educational, recreational or social programs" but doesn’t specify whether the definition includes the State Fair.

"We would love it to be codified in law that the State Fair is a children’s area and that it is not a place for registered sex offenders," Hicks said.

An update to the sex offender law could come in the legislature’s short session, which begins in late April.

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