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Council Puts Sex Offender Ban on Pause

The San Juan Capistrano City Council wants more time to determine which parks registered sex offenders would be barred from visiting.

Registered sex offenders can continue to spend time in public green spaces while the City Council susses out which areas should be included in a

"Our hearts are all wanting this stringent mandate," San Juan Capistrano  said Tuesday. But "I don’t think we’re ready for it yet."

The council voted unanimously Tuesday to delay its decision on a ban. In the meantime, it will look at all of the city's parks and its open spaces to determine which ones are regularly visited by children.

, a few cities have followed suit. Others continue to weigh their options. , a retired police officer, is leading the charge for a similar ban in San Juan Capistrano, where he wants to give sheriff's deputies another "tool in their toolbox."

In not adopting a ban, "you’re allowing some of the worst of the worst to be around children," cautioned Susan Kang Schroeder, chief of staff in the district attorney's office, which championed the passing of the county ban.

The council signaled support for a proposed ordinance that would make it a misdemeanor for a registered sex offender to set foot in a park where children regularly gather. Park visitors would help enforce the ordinance by reporting suspicious activity. 

However, a provision in the proposal concerns the council: Individuals such as those who do maintenance or custodial work at community parks could bypass the law if they receive written consent from Sheriff Sandra Hutchens.

But the Sheriff's Department has said it will not assume liability for any sex crimes that the person might commit.

City officials say they're hesitant to pass off the responsibility to another agency and then assume responsibility for any subsequent criminal activity.

"My understanding is that [Hutchens] is not a big fan of this type of ordinance because of the position it puts her department in," said Councilman. "If she wanted it, it seems like she’d be willing to put [her department] on the line."

Allevato on Tuesday night played a video of Phillip Garrido—the man convicted of kidnapping and raping of Jaycee Dugard, whom he kept in captivity for 18 years.

In the video, Garrido is being filmed by his wife playing the guitar by his wife and co-defendant, Nancy, at a park. In the video, Garrido is heard telling Nancy to zoom in on children's genitals. Schroeder said Garrido later used the footage for "sexual gratification."

"If you have that sick desire, it never goes away," Schroeder said.

The only council member to hint at possible disapproval of the proposed ban was , who said he didn't want to subject the city to any lawsuits.

In 2008, the city of San Diego was sued because it prohibited sex offenders from being within 300 feet of parks, amusement parks, schools, libraries and arcades and from living within 2,000 feet of those areas. When it settled the case in June of this year, San Diego agreed to lift sections of the law that restrict sex offenders from mingling near parks.

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 recently enacted Orange County law extends the restriction on park visits indefinitely for all registered sex offenders.

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