Horry County takes first step to ban sex offenders from working in child-oriented businesses

Published: Mar. 15, 2022 at 11:24 PM EDT
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - Parents in Horry County may get an extra level of peace of mind soon.

County leaders took the first step toward enacting a new law banning sex offenders from working in child-oriented businesses.

No, the county didn’t already have something in place to keep sex offenders out of these businesses.

Councilman Johnny Vaught said they worked on an ordinance for this issue with food trucks a few years back, but there’s nothing in writing keeping a sex offender from opening, say, a daycare, mini-golf course or water park.

It’s one of those issues that never had a law because it never came up, until recently, that is, which is why the county is taking action before anyone gets hurt.

“We had a citizen come to us, who had a specific complaint about somebody he knew of who was running an ice cream truck in his neighborhood, who was a convicted sex offender,” said Vaught.

That complaint was all it took to get the ball rolling on a new ordinance that will ban convicted sex offenders from operating or working at child-oriented businesses.

As a parent himself, it was an easy “yes” vote for Vaught.

“I’ve never worried about one of my kids running out to the ice cream truck,” Vaught said. “But when you hear horror stories, and you say, ‘Wait a minute, maybe he’s taking them inside, who knows?’ This will give us peace of mind I think.”

The ordinance points out that there are documented cases of abuse near child-oriented businesses, something the county council would like to control as much as possible.

If the ordinance passes, new employees at child-oriented businesses will be required to fill out a form stating they are not a registered sex offender

A business would have to announce to the county if any sex offenders are on the team and immediately fire them, otherwise, they’ll risk losing their business license.

Vaught’s hoping this will put the man who brought it to their attention at ease when he sees kids running up to the ice cream truck in his neighborhood.

“This guy had a specific complaint,” said Vaught. “We felt it needed addressing, so we put that ordinance together.”

The only way a registered sex offender will be able to work at one of these businesses is if it’s been 20 years since they got out of jail for the crime.

It passed the first vote Monday night, so it’ll be back for a second vote in two weeks. That is also when people will have the chance to express their thoughts, during the public hearing.

If the votes follow Monday, this ordinance could be a done deal in about a month.

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