O.C. Supes Give Early OK to Law Banning Sex Offenders in Parks

Board asks district attorney to make revisions before a final vote is taken.

A law that would ban sex offenders in Orange County parks was given tentative approval Tuesday by the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

The board has asked District Attorney Tony Rackauckas to make several revisions to the ordinance before a final vote is taken in April.

Supervisor Shawn Nelson proposed the ordinance after one of his
constituents complained that a registered sex offender inherited a home in
Fullerton, across from Laguna Lake Park.

"We found there were few tools to keep this person away from children in the park,'' Nelson said.

Fullerton City Council members have approved similar ordinances barring
sex offenders from parks, Nelson said.

Under the proposal, registered sex offenders caught in designated county recreational areas where children regularly gather would be subject to misdemeanor charges. Violators could be punished with up to six months in jail and/or a $500 fine.

The ordinance would become law 30 days after if it is passed. 

“Registered sex offenders should not have the right to go into parks and places where children gather,” Rackauckas said in a statement announcing plans for the ordinance. “Parks do not belong to sexual deviants. Parks belong to children who want to play there and parents who want to enjoy nature with their children.”

Supervisor Pat Bates of the Fifth District said she had first-hand experience with a sex offender years ago when she took her children on an outing. 

“When I took my daughter and some young ladies to the O.C .Marine Institute, which is now the Ocean Institute, there was a sex offender there who exposed himself to the girls, so it does happen,” Bates said.

The question came up during the discussion about whether the Harbor, Beaches and Parks Department or the Sheriff’s Department would be responsible for signing waivers for registered sex offenders who wished to be in one of the parks for a wedding or similar event, as well as for county workers with such an offense on their records who needed to be in the parks as a condition of their employment.

It was ultimately determined  that the Sheriff's Department would be responsible for issuing the waivers. Denis Bildeau, Nelson’s chief of staff, said the Sheriff's Department would be better equipped to analyze a person’s criminal record.

The district attorney’s office said officers would not be patrolling the parks looking for sex offenders, but rather that it would be up to people visiting the parks to report any suspicious behavior to park rangers or law enforcement personnel.

Speaking on behalf of a group called Sex Offender Solutions and Education Network based in Oklahoma, Eric Knight, who represents the California region, said that while even the words sex offender “strike terror in any parent or neighborhood,” the ordinance, if passed, would “violate” a handful of amendments—1,4, 5, 8, 10, 14—of the U.S. Constitution, as well as many California laws.

“I can guarantee that this law would be overturned should it go to court,” he said. “I think a better solution would be to work alongside the schools, and work out details on how to keep kids safe and educate them better.”

In response to Knight’s remark, the district attorney’s office said the department had researched the issue and was “confident in that the issue of impinging on someone’s constitutional rights is not an issue.”

Barry Levinson, a resident of Fullerton, implored the board to pass the ordinance.

“How can we truly say we value our children if this ordinance doesn’t go into effect?” he said.

The law would apply to nearly 60,000 acres of parkland and open space, including regional and wilderness parks, nature preserves, recreational trails, historic sites, harbors, and beaches where children regularly gather. These include: Arroyo Trabuco Park, Carbon Canyon Regional Park, Clark Regional Park, Craig Regional Park, Featherly Regional Park, Irvine Regional Park, Laguna Niguel Regional Park, Mason Regional Park, Mile Square Regional Park, O'Neill Regional Park, Orange County Zoo, Peters Canyon Regional Park, Santiago Regional Park, Harriett M. Wieder Regional Park, Yorba Park, Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, Caspers Wilderness Park, Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park, Talbert Nature Preserve, Aliso Beach Park, Capistrano Beach Park, Newport Harbor, Salt Creek Beach Park, Sunset Beach Park, Dana Point Harbor, and Sunset Harbour.

—City News Service contributed to this report.

Shelomith Stow April 05, 2011 at 02:55 PM
Just some reasons why this is bad, bad, bad: Not all "sex offenders" are child molesters; this punishes the whole class for the actions of a few. They will not be able to take their own children to park/beach/etc. Some will have jobs requiring them to be at those places; this will result in job loss. Well over 90% of sexually molested children are not victims of registered sex offenders but of their own family members and trusted family acquaintances. Your kids are at much greater risk from Uncle Joe who took them to the park than from a registered sex offender. They have paid their debt; as a group, they have a very low recidivism rate; this is just wrong.
joe April 05, 2011 at 11:29 PM
Tonya, The law you speak of is the 2,000 foot rule. If an offender has lived in his or her house before the law (Jessica's Law) went into affect they are allowed to remain in their houses. A judge recently in Los Angeles ruled the 2000 rule is not enforceable. I appreciate your view of not picketing a man and his family. There are people like Jeff S who have no conscience.
jeff s April 05, 2011 at 11:40 PM
ahhh.. nice - another low blow from low thinking joe. i certainly do have a conscience! just no sympathy for pedophiles or empathy for those who defend their rights. kiddy freaks have no rights and should be run out of civilized areas, banished to outskits of any areas where children congregate. why are we discussing this anyhow, the law was passed, they are now banned from my parks. ...good ridance pedo meatsacks...
The One April 06, 2011 at 03:24 AM
Jeez, some people sure love to abuse their right to anonymous speech. Well the hateful comments from the resident troll was booted again, but I saw the comments in my Inbox. In regards to the Bible, stop misquoting it. Read the passage of Matthew 18 a lot more closely next time. Jesus speaks about all Believers, not just kids. He says we should approach him like a child (meaning humble), and the exhortation in Mt 18:6 refers to doing things that cause ANY Believer to sin! It is an exhortation against scandals in general. Read the entire chapter. The next paragraph is the infamous "If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out." Do you take that literally? If so, how can Jeff S still type? He'd have no fingers. Its funny he alluded to Matthew 18 since that very chapter warns us about an unforgiving heart.
The One April 06, 2011 at 03:25 AM
Feel free to look it up. By the way, this law WILL be overturned in court. They just cost the taxpayers millions of dollars. Way to go.


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