[UPDATED with SJC Law on Agenda:] Banning Pervs in Parks Sweeps OC
Among the options the city with huge swaths of open space will explore are applying bans only to parks frequented by children or to registered sex offenders convicted of having preyed on the young.
UPDATE, JUNE 21, 5:15 P.M.: The San Juan Capistrano City Council tonight becomes the next local Orange County panel to consider extending the county ban on registered sex offenders to city parks.
Susan Kang Schroeder, chief of staff at the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA), is scheduled to press the case in favor of a pervs-out-of-parks ordinance after tonight's meeting is called to order at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 32400 Paseo Adelanto, San Juan Capistrano.
Irvine approved a watered-down version of the law the Orange County Board of Supervisors adopted in April that slaps misdemeanors on registered sex offenders who do not seek permission from the sheriff's department before entering a county park or other recreational area where children gather. The county ordinance was drafted by District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and Supervisor Shawn Nelson.
Irvine ultimately approved a law that targets only sex offenders who have victimized children.
|Rackauckas and Schroeder|
Joined-at-the-hip council members Larry Agran and Beth Krom worried about creating a false sense of security and preoccupying police officers in what's been repeatedly been deemed America's safest city.
So with the issue back on tonight's council agenda, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas is pulling out all the stops. Hellbent on getting Orange County cities in line with the county law he co-wrote with Supervisor Shawn Nelson, T-Rack's scheduled to appear in the Irvine council chambers with his chief of staff Susan Kang Schroeder and various victims' rights advocates.
A media advisory from the DA's office says Erin Runnion of the Joyful Child Foundation and representatives from Divine Choices and Community Service Programs, Inc. will be part of the DA's contingent. It's as if T-Rack is saying, "Try telling the mother of slain little Samantha Runnion you don't need this law in Irvine, Agran."
T-Rack's full-court press is being extended to the public, which he's also asked to join him at the Irvine meeting. His advisory also lists the council's contact information for direct communication:
Irvine City Council: (949) 724-6000
Sukhee Kang, Mayor: firstname.lastname@example.org
Beth Krom, Mayor Pro Tem: email@example.com
Larry Argan, Councilmember: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Steven Choi, Councilmember: email@example.com
Jeffrey Lalloway, Councilmember : firstname.lastname@example.org
The meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the chambers at 1 Civic Center Plaza in Irvine. The "Child Safety Zones in Parks" item is No. 6 on the agenda.
UPDATE, JUNE 9, 11:46 A.M.: District Attorney Tony Rackauckas last night scored a two-fer in his quest to get all Orange County cities to extend the county ban on sex offenders in parks to city-owned recreational areas. The Rancho Santa Margarita City Council voted unanimously to draft an ordinance patterned after the county's created by T-Rack and Supervisor Shawn Nelson and enacted in April. Meanwhile, the Westminster City Council gave final approval to its own ban set to take effect July 8. Nellie, T-Rack and Erin Runnion have all hailed Westminster's law as the one closest to the county's.
UPDATE, JUNE 8, 8:15 A.M.: A spin of the Wheel of Victimization has stopped on Rancho Santa Margarita, whose city council tonight considers joining the county and other OC cities that have made parks and other public places where children gather off limits to registered sex offenders.
Councilman Steven Baric proposed the discussion of an ordinance extending the ban the county enacted in April to city parks. Senior Deputy District Attorney Brian Fitzpatrick will make the pitch for the Orange County District Attorney's Office, whose bossman, Tony Rackauckas drafted the county ordinance with Supervisor Shawn Nelson.
The county version makes it a misdemeanor for registered sex offenders to enter county recreational areas where children regularly gather without first receiving permission from Orange County sheriff's deputies.
The council meeting begins at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 22112 El Paseo, Rancho Santa Margarita.
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.
"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."
"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.