[UPDATED with Enactment Cheered:] Westminster Jumps Aboard Bandwagon Banning Pervs in Parks

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Erin Runnion
UPDATE, MAY 27, 3:40 P.M.: An Orange County supervisor, the district attorney and perhaps the most famous mother of a local crime victim today applauded Westminster officially enacting a ban on registered sex offenders from city parks.

Cheers from Supervisor Shawn Nelson and District Attorney Tony Rackauckas are no surprise since they drafted the similar ordinance enacted by the county in April. They have been lobbying cities to follow suit ever since. But also lending her approval to Westminster's move Thursday night was Erin Runnion, the mother of 5-year-old Samantha Runnion, who was abducted from her Stanton home, sexually assaulted and murdered in 2002.

While Alejandro Avila was being tried for Samantha's murder--he was convicted of special circumstances murder and sentenced to the death penalty in 2005--her mother formed the Joyful Child Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates for child safety and education.

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Samantha Runnion
"It is so important that we rally to insist that the rights of our children come before those of convicted predators," Runnion said in a statement cheering the Westminster vote and distributed by the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA). "These are our parks and our children deserve to be safe while they play."

She went on to laud the Westminster Unified School District for piloting the Not One More Child Safety Education Initiative and Rackauckas and municipal leaders "who put children first."

The ordinance, which is the first formally enacted that mirrors the county version, was supported by Mayor Margie Rice and council members Andrew Quach, Tri Ta and the councilman who introduced it, Tyler Diep. Councilman Frank Fry abstained.

"I hope parents of Westminster join me in commending Westminster Mayor Rice, Mayor Pro Tem Diep, and City Council Members Quach and Ta for taking a big step in creating a safety zone for our children and keeping sex offenders out of Westminster parks," Rackauckas says in the same OCDA statement. His senior assistant DA, Mary Anne McCauley, had attended the meeting to press for passage of the ordinance.

"I hope other cities join Westminster and take a stand to protect children from dangerous sex offenders," added Nelson. "A gap in the law was identified and now Westminster police has the authority they need to remove registered sex offenders from children's play areas."

The law makes it a misdemeanor for anyone registered as a sex offender to enter any city of Westminster park where children regularly gather--unless they have written permission from the Westminster Police Department. Violators may be punished with up to six months in jail and/or a $500 fine.

Civil libertarians warn such ordinances may be unconstitutional, while parents who must register as sex offenders for relatively minor crimes from years ago--such as urinating in public--have called the laws unfair.

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UPDATE, MAY 24, 3:36 P.M.: The Westminster City Council on Thursday will consider a local ordinance modeled after the existing county version that bans registered sex offenders from parks and recreational facilities unless they have permission from the police.

That makes Westminster just the latest Orange County city to consider such a law, but Councilman Tyler Diep says his town has something the others don't: a whole lot more registered sex offenders calling Westminster home.

Diep tells the Orange County Register a city staff report shows there are 137 sex offenders registered with the Westminster Police Department. And more are likely on the way as the state is under a court order to reduce the prison population.

For those playing the home version, Westminster joins Irvine and Huntington Beach in considering bans. Tustin, Orange and Fullerton already have ordinances similar to the county's in place.

UPDATE, MAY 17, 8:37 A.M.: The Huntington Beach City Council voted unanimously Monday night to have its staff draft a local ordinance modeled after the existing county version that bans registered sex offenders from parks and recreational facilities where children gather.

However, some council members wondered if the law will be enforceable given the city's vast central park and long city beach strand. And one questioned whether such a law would be constitutional.

Councilwoman Connie Boardman reportedly brought up the constitutional question while also noting she has received emails from parents who had offenses years ago, are now raising children and would be prohibited from taking their kids to city parks.

She suggested a law similar to Tustin's, which does not outright ban offenders but prohibits them from loitering in recreational areas. And her notion of considering the broad spectrum of offenses that can earn people sex-offender tags resonated with two other council members. For instance, someone arrested for urinating in public or who as teen over 18 had a girlfriend under 18 could have been branded sex offenders. Should they pay the same price as a habitual child rapist?

Amazingly, taking the actual offenses into account was also advocated by Surf City Police Chief Kenneth Small, who asked the council to include in the final draft in the ordinance some discretion on how his officers will enforce it.

A new law written by City Attorney Jennifer McGrath will come back before the council at a later date.

ORIGINAL POST, MAY 16, 8:17 A.M.: The county adopted its sex offender ban in regional parks and recreational facilities where children gather last month. The Irvine City Council considered creating its own last week. Tonight, the Huntington Beach City Council gets in on the action.

At the request of Mayor Joe Carchio and Councilman Matthew Harper, the council is scheduled to discuss enacting a city ordinance similar to the county ordinance first proposed by Supervisor Shawn Nelson and Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.

Someone representing Rackauckas is expected to attend the council meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. at Huntington Beach City Hall, 2000 Main St., Huntington Beach.
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11 comments
fixithair
fixithair

Who’s children were put at risk? The registrant’s child was by not allowing their first line of protection (their parents) to be there for them. Kids often get hurt in parks. Thank God those children by chance didn’t get hurt during the time these horrible, evil punitive measures were in place! Tony Rackauckas used the registrants as his whipping boy for votes to get re-elected. That is not an uncommon thing for politicians but to do so by putting children at risk is beyond belief and itself should be criminal. I think it is vitally important to define to these leaders what harm is more likely to take place in a park. Has there been any history of registrants harming children in parks? No? But there has been history of children sometimes being hurt in parks whether that be by falling from a tree or choking on a hot dog. A registrant’s child isn’t good enough to be protected by their parent because of their parent’s status. That ladies and gentlemen is wrong at the most basic level. About the sheriff’s waiver program…what about the term Law ENFORCEMENT agency allows them to give registered sex offenders a pass to break the law?It’s remiss of their position to do such a thing. TRUTH

MichaelRS
MichaelRS

Please , I BEG ANYONE.  Tell me how this will REALLY protect children?

Will laws like these be ANYwhere in the minds of future people like Philip Guerrido, Lawrence Joseph Brown, John Gardner, or Rodney James Alcala, before they go out to do their thing?

Maybe they are.  Maybe that's why they don't normally bother with parks.  Maybe that's why they continue to do what works best for them...just snatching a kid who is alone off the street or who is playing, unsupervised, on their own property. 

Like Megan Kanka, Jessica Lunsford, Robin Samsoe or Samantha Runnion.  All these political types like to invokes these poor girl's names for their own cynical ends.  How about a little truth along with it?  None was taken from a park or beach and the guy that took Samantha was not even an RSO.

The only RSOs that will obey these ordinances are the ones who want no more trouble, of any kind, with the justice system.  It will have no effect on people who are not yet RSOs.

Well, if you need to worry about someone, here is a list of people who had other titles BEFORE they were RSO:

Mayors:http://mcalesternews.com/local... http://www.bakersfield.com/new... Councilmen:http://www.thefreelibrary.com/... http://www.kolotv.com/californ... ADA:http://corsicanadailysun.com/l...  Sheriff http://latimesblogs.latimes.co... http://articles.ocregister.com... http://www.ocweekly.com/2011-0... http://www.freerepublic.com/fo... Or maybe it's their teacher who get to ogil them all day long.  I'm sure you can find enough examples of those yourself.

lishuzheng
lishuzheng

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mitch young
mitch young

I didn't know there were any white folks left in north/central OC, away from the beach.

Max Brash
Max Brash

God, who sees through political BS and moral posing, probably isn't buying it. But he is taking notes.

Dweezle.Di
Dweezle.Di

Everyone knows that drunk drivers kill people so why not pass a law forbidding anyone convicted of drunk driving from driving on any Huntington Beach Street?  or for that matter forbidding anyone convicted of texting while driving... Oh wait, they served their time, and did their community service obligations... so they are good people now. The purpose of these laws are not to stop crime, but to make it easy to arrest a registered sex offender for walking his (or her) dog on a beach. walk your dog 3 times and you get life in prison (3 strikes). I realize it is not popular to side with sex offenders, people that may have been convicted of "Indecent Exposure" for urinating behind a Gas Station that did not allow them to use the rest room... or a guy that chatted with a 35 year old police officer Posing as a 16 year old in a chat room. If a convicted sex offender is out chasing children, DO THE WORK involved in taking them off the streets, Do not pass easily enforceable nonsense laws making it illegal to do what any other person can do. A person that made a mistake and served their time and now lives an otherwise clean life should be allowed to go where ever he or she wants to go.

Tbplayer
Tbplayer

Such a politician thing to do.  It smacks of the "us too!" political climate.  It's such an easy thing to be in favor of.   

Tom
Tom

If Huntington Beach would just outlaw "Rednecks, Arian Racists and Bigots"  all their problems would be solved.

MichaelRS
MichaelRS

Did you note the council members names?

mitch young
mitch young

Edgy, Aryan (note the spelling) Huntington beach has about 1/3  of the violent crime of Santa Ana 

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