[UPDATED with SJC Spooked:] Banning Pervs in Parks Sweeps OC
After polite discussion and a couple readings, the ban is passed. Generally, it's modeled after the county law. Sometimes, it's slightly tweaked. Ho-hum, motion to move to closed session so we can spike administrative pensions.
Then along comes San Juan Capistrano to muck up the works. Apparently not having received the memo about the law being tied to Rackauckas' legacy and co-writing county Supervisor Shawn Nelson's continued rise in politics, council members there delayed a vote Tuesday night.
The majority favored passage of a ban, perhaps with a provision that would allow some of the city's 17 registered sex offenders to get permission from Police Services to enter parks for specific reasons without fear of getting popped for a misdemeanor.
(Sidebar: all this council attention for 17 people out of a population of 35,000? I mean, it's not like they're palm-greasing land developers.)
However, individual council members feared that any ban would open the city up to liability, knowing that San Diego just gutted its ban amid a legal challenge from the public defender. Mayor Sam Allevato wondered if the ban might fly better legally if it was only applied on a park-by-park basis.
Questions, questions, enough to lead the council to put off a ban until more investigation can be done.
The council agreed that banning only those who have preyed on children would leave kids vulnerable to all the other sex offenders. But the law that will come back to the council at a later date will include provisions different from the county's broad ban in regional parks and other recreational areas.
Rancho Santa Margarita's ban would allow sex offenders to apply for waivers that would allow them to enter city parks to attend religious services, accompany their children to parks, vote in elections where their local polls are in parks and attend events as allowed under the freedom of assembly.
City staff claimed allowing waivers would better protect RSM from legal challenges.
UPDATE, JULY 27, 7:14 A.M.: Tonight, the Ban-Pervs-in-Parks Wheel stops yet again in Rancho Santa Margarita, where the staff has recommended still more time to implement a law similar to the county's enacted in April.
According to the agenda for tonight's regular meeting, the council will be asked to accept the staff report and then chose one of two options.
The stricter option would be to go the way of the county plan drafted by Supervisor Shawn Nelson and District Attorney Tony Rackauckas to totally ban register sex offenders from city parks unless the creepers have the permission of local law enforcement.
The more lenient choice would be to go the way of Irvine, which rejected the full Nelson/T-Rack and instead opted to only ban sex offenders whose crimes involved children. That is who these measures are intended to protect, after all.
City staff in RSM, which has already kicked the idea of a law around twice before now, would have the council follow up its Sophie's Choice with more direction for staff before allowing the employees to gather more "outreach" from the real people who run the bedroom community:
Homeowners association presidents!
Tonight's meeting begins at 7 in the council chambers at 22112 El Paseo, Rancho Santa Margarita.
UPDATE, JUNE 22, 10:09 A.M.: While expressing some concern the county pervs-in-parks ban is too broad, the San Juan Capistrano City Council did decide Tuesday night to bring a local ordinance back for a vote July 5.
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.
UPDATE, JUNE 14, 8:16 A.M.: When the idea of banning registered sex offenders from city parks was brought before the Irvine City Council last month, the panel agreed to have staff bring back a draft proposal--with reservations.
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: email@example.com
Beth Krom, Mayor Pro Tem: firstname.lastname@example.org
Larry Argan, Councilmember: email@example.com
Dr. Steven Choi, Councilmember: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeffrey Lalloway, Councilmember : email@example.com
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.
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.
"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.
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.
UPDATE, 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.
UPDATE, MAY 11, 9:54 A.M.: The proposal to ban sex offenders from Irvine city parks did not wow all council members Tuesday night. Mayor Sukhee Kang, Councilman Steven Choi and the councilman who brought the matter before the panel, Jeff Lalloway, indicated support for a local version of the new county law that bans registered offenders from county parks and recreational facilities. The council ultimately directed city staff to bring a recommendation back before it within 45 days.
Two council members had expressed reservations, though.
As reported by Jeff Overley in the Orange County Register, Larry Agran noted Irvine is America's safest city, so by default it would already have America's safest parks. He feared the ban might occupy city cops who have proven they have a winning enforcement formula already. As part of the staff recommendation, Agran urged that a determination be made to whether pervs in Irvine parks is even a problem. Councilwoman Beth Krom, meanwhile, reportedly wondered whether the law would create a false sense of safety in parks.
But echoing the sentiments of Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, who appeared before the council to lobby for the law mirrored after the county version he whipped up with Supervisor Shawn Nelson, Lalloway said the county ban could drive sex offenders into city parks that aren't covered by similar ordinances.
That prospect has already spooked cities like Tustin and Fullerton to adopt park bans and Westminster and Huntington Beach to consider them.
Others who addressed the Irvine council were county Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, who reportedly said she did not want to tell the city leaders what to do but that such bans make her job easier, and Todd Spitzer, whose former county supervisorial district included Irvine. Spitzer, who helped put Megan's Law online as a state assemblyman before becoming the heir apparent to Rackauckas (who ultimately fired the Spitz), hailed the ban as a way to protect children.
As any good candidate for office knows--Spitzer is running for supervisor again--it's all about the children.
UPDATE, MAY 10, 8:10 A.M.: Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas is scheduled to drop into the Irvine City Council meeting tonight.
No, he will not be there to hand out an indictment to a certain electioneering Boss Hogg--at least not this time.
The man the kids call T-Rack will be there to urge support of Councilman Jeff Lalloway's proposal to extend a ban on sex offenders in county parks and recreational facilities to Irvine city parks.
The Irvine City Council will review the county ordinance as part of the discussion on the proposed city ordinance at the meeting that begins at 5 p.m. at Irvine City Hall. A vote to enact a city ordinance would not happen until a later council meeting.
"Irvine's record of safety is a source of great pride to the residents of this city and to me," Lalloway says in a statement distributed by the DA's office. "As a father of two young children and an Irvine official, I am always looking for new ways to better protect our children and families and keep Irvine America's Safest City."
For several years running, Irvine has been named the country's safest city due to its low crime rate and relatively large population.
Besides Rackauckas, Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens is scheduled to attend the council meeting and add her support to Lalloway's proposed ordinance.
UPDATE, APRIL 5, 4:43 P.M.: The Orange County Board of Supervisors today unanimously approved a new law to create "child safety zones" that registered sex offenders can only enter legally if they have permission from law enforcement.
Basically, the brainchild of District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and Supervisor Shawn Nelson makes it a misdemeanor for convicted perverts, molesters and assorted creepers to hang out at in county parks and recreational areas where children regularly gather--unless the Sheriff's Department gives them the all-clear first.
"Orange County has taken a huge step in creating a safety zone for our children," Rackauckas. says in a statement issued by his office. "Parks, harbors, and beaches belong to families and children, not registered sex offenders."
Nelson is quoted in the same release praising his board for taking "a stand for children."
"A gap in the law was identified," Nelson states, "and now law enforcement has the authority they need to remove registered sex offenders from children's play areas."
Violators of the new law face up to six months in jail and/or a $500 fine. The zones are indentified in the complete ordinance below:
ORDINANCE NO. 03-18-1 to 6
AN ORDINANCE OF THE COUNTY OF ORANGE, CALIFORNIA, ADDING DIVISION 18, ARTICLE 1 TO TITLE 3 OF THE CODIFIED ORDINANCES OF THE COUNTY OF ORANGE PROHIBITING REGISTERED SEX OFFENDERS FROM ENTERING COUNTY PARKS
The Board of Supervisors of the County of Orange, California ordains as follows:
SECTION 1. Division 18, Article 1 is hereby added to Title 3 of the Codified Ordinances of the County of Orange, to read as follows:
ARTICLE 1. PROHIBITION OF REGISTERED SEX OFFENDERS FROM ENTERING COUNTY PARKS
Sec. 3-18-1. Purpose and intent.
It is the purpose and intent of this ordinance to protect children from registered sex offenders by restricting sex offenders' access to locations where children regularly gather. It is intended to reduce the risk of harm to children by impacting the ability of sex offenders to be in contact with children. It is further the intent of this ordinance to provide additional restrictions beyond those provided for in state law by restricting sex offenders from certain limited locations, and by allowing for criminal penalties for violations of this ordinance. It is not the intent of this ordinance to allow conduct otherwise prohibited by state law, or to contradict state law. Orange County Parks are recognized by the County of Orange Board of Supervisors as locations where children regularly gather.
Sec. 3-18-2. Definitions.
Orange County Park. For purposes of this ordinance, an Orange County Park is defined as any county-owned, leased, operated or maintained land before or after the effective date of this ordinance by the County of Orange held as a harbor, beach, park or recreation area, including but not limited to, 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.
Sec. Sec. 3-18-3. Prohibitions.
Any person required to register pursuant to California Penal Code sections 290, et seq. who enters into or upon any Orange County Park where children regularly gather without written permission from the Orange County Sheriff or Sheriff's designee is guilty of a misdemeanor. Each entry into any such area, regardless of the time period between entries, shall constitute a separate offense under this ordinance.
Sec. 3-18-4. Penalties for violation.
Punishment for a violation of this section shall be as follows:
(1) Upon a first conviction, by imprisonment in a county jail for a period of not more than six months, or by a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars ($500), or by both imprisonment and a fine.
(2) Upon a second conviction, by imprisonment in a county jail for a period of not less than ten (10) days and not more than six months, or by both imprisonment and a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars ($500). Upon a second conviction, however, the person shall not be released on probation, parole, or any other basis until he or she has served not less than ten (10) days.
(3) Upon a third or subsequent conviction, by imprisonment in a county jail for a period of not less than ninety (90) days and not more than six months, or by both imprisonment and a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars ($500). Upon a third or subsequent conviction, however, the person shall not be released on probation, parole, or any other basis until he or she has served not less than ninety (90) days.
Sec. 3-18-5. Other prosecution authorized.
Nothing in this ordinance shall preclude or prohibit prosecution under any other provision of law.
Sec. 3-18-6. Severability.
If any section, paragraph, sentence, clause, phrase or portion of this ordinance is held invalid or unconstitutional by any court of competent jurisdiction, such portion shall be deemed severable and such holding shall not affect the validity of the remaining portions hereof. The Board of Supervisors hereby declares that it would have adopted this ordinance irrespective of the invalidity of any particular portion thereof and intends that the invalid portions should be severed and the balance of the ordinance be enforced.
UPDATE, MARCH 22, 3:22 P.M.: The Orange County Board of Supervisors this morning approved the first reading of an ordinance aimed at keeping sex offenders out of county parks and recreation areas.
The board asked District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, who proposed the new law along with Supervisor Shawn Nelson, to tweak the ordinance so sex offenders can apply for waivers if they, say, attend a wedding at a county facility.
It is scheduled to return for a final board vote next month. It would go into effect 30 days after final approval.
But a representative from the Oklahoma-based Sex Offenders Network told the board the proposed ordinance violates the U.S. Constitution and will be overturned if it is ever taken to court, reports Patch.com's Nisha Gutierrez-Jaime.
ORIGINAL POST, MARCH 22, 7:01 A.M.: This morning, the Orange County Board of Supervisors considers a proposed ordinance aimed at keeping sex offenders out of county parks and recreation areas.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas on March 14 announced that he and county Supervisor Shawn Nelson had drafted the proposed ordinance that "creates a safety zone" to protect children from registered sex offenders.
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.
"I applaud Supervisor Nelson for taking this step to help protect the children of Orange County," Rackauckas said in announcing the proposal. "Registered sex offenders should not have the right to go into parks and places where children gather. 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."
"Parents and children should expect that county parks are free from sexual predators," Nelson says in the same statement. "This ordinance gives our law-enforcement personnel the tools they need to keep our parks free from threats. I've worked closely with our district attorney to craft this ordinance designed to ensure the safety of our children."
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.
The board meeting begins at 9 a.m. at the Orange County Hall of Administration, 10 Civic Center Plaza, Santa Ana. If the board approves the ordinance on first reading, it will come back for a final vote on April 4.