CABARRUS COUNTY, N.C. -- Friday, the Cabarrus County fair celebrates it’s opening night. The fair runs through September 17 featuring rides, fair foods, a petting zoo and exhibit hall.
But one thing you shouldn’t see this year: registered sex offenders.
This July, Governor Pat McCrory signed new legislation banning certain sex offenders from places where children gather. The law is named in honor of 9-year-old Jennifer Lunsford, a Gastonia girl who was kidnapped, raped and murdered by a convicted sex offender in Florida back in 2005.
The new law officially went into effect September 1 and applies only to offenders whose victims were under the age of 18 and to offenders who have been found to present a danger to minors.
The law bans those offenders from places like libraries, arcades, amusement parks, recreation areas, swimming pools and county fairs.
Friday, county workers placed new signs at each of the fair’s entrances making sure registered sex offenders were aware of the changes. In Cabarrus County, there are more than 300 sex offenders listed on the registry, with more than 80 living within a five-mile radius of the fairgrounds.
Mother Jessica Wohltmann said she was surprised they were allowed into the fair before, but says the new law makes her feel safer.
“I have two little ones and another one on the way. I feel so much better knowing they can't be on the grounds. I don't think they should be allowed,” said Wohltmann.
The Cabarrus County Sheriff’s office says roughly 30 officers will be on-duty at the fair each day. Deputy Chief Hunt says the department’s sex offender registry officer will also be there.
He says they’ll be asking offenders to leave, but if needed he says his officers will be ready to make arrests.
Opponents of the new legislation say it quarantines citizens and restricts their right to access public spaces. Opponents say it’s a deprivation of equal protection under the laws.
Copyright 2016 WCNC