At the request of Mayor Sam Allevato—a retired police officer—the City Council will soon discuss at length the possibility of banning sex offenders from city parks.
Allevato on Tuesday night gauged the council's interest in such a law, and all of the members said it's something they would very much like to consider.
The ordinance would likely mirror one adopted recently by the Orange County Board of Supervisors. A handful of other cities in the county have followed suit.
"San Juan Capistrano has many rules about its parks," said District Attorney chief of staff Susan Kang Schroeder, who lobbied the City Council in favor of a ban. She listed existing rules, such as horses not being permitted in parks, and said: "If you can prohibit things such as that, certainly the city should join the county."
The D.A. helped draft the measure .
California law bars serious sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of parks. It also restricts them from visiting parks, but only while they are on parole. The county law extends the restriction on park visits indefinitely and to all registered sex offenders in unincorporated areas.
This is a "serious enough issue that we should agendize it for a future meeting," Allevato said. It would be an "extra tool for law enforcement to have, to use if they come in contact with someone loitering in the vicinity of children."
However, San Juan Capistrano's chief of police, , said sex offenders loitering in parks in town isn't currently an issue.
Of the more than 1,800 registered sex offenders identified on California's Megan's Law, 17 live in San Juan.
City councilmen Larry Kramer and Derek Reeve did raise some concerns, including:
- What would be defined as a park (San Juan has a and lots of owned by the city)?
- Would the law become a tool for law enforcement to harass homeless people who sleep in the Northwest Open Space?
- Should the measure be narrowed to include only sex offenders who have committed crimes against children?
Staffers will take these concerns under consideration when drafting a proposal for the council. A date for the next discussion hasn't yet been scheduled.