Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson is proposing a county law that would make it a misdemeanor for registered sex offenders to enter county parks, beaches or harbors without permission from county authorities.
Current law bars registered offenders from parks and other areas, like school grounds, where children gather. Those who are on parole risk being returned to prison if they violate the law, but once an offender is off parole, law enforcement officials say there is little they can do.
California has two voter-approved laws that mainly regulate convicted sex offenders. Megan’s Law requires convicted offenders to register with local law enforcement agencies, and that list is public and on the internet.
Jessica’s Law prohibits persons convicted of serious sexual offenses against children, on and off parole, from living within 2,000 feet of schools and parks or visiting parks, school grounds and other areas frequented by children. But there is no penalty for those who are off parole and violate the law.
Nelson’s proposal would bar those who are required to register as sex offenders from entering county parks, beaches or harbors without written permission from the county parks director or the director of Dana Point harbor. Penalties for violation of the ordinance could be up to six months in jail and a $500 fine. The proposed county law doesn’t include city schools.
Nelson’s proposed ordinance grew out of an issue in Fullerton in which a convicted sex offender inherited a home close to Laguna Lake Park.
Last fall, Fullerton, which has 160-170 convicted sex offenders in a city of about 135,000, adopted a city ordinance making it a misdemeanor for registered sex offenders to be in city parks for as long as they are required to register, possibly the rest of their lives.
During his campaign for county supervisor last year, Nelson’s law firm’s solicitation of cases on behalf of accused sex offenders became an issue.
The firm had advertised on its website that it would accept sex offenders as clients. Those solicitations were taken down after labor-financed campaign mailers made them an issue in the race for the Fourth District supervisorial seat.
Nelson, a former Fullerton city councilman, said his firm never represented accused sex offenders.
North Orange County in general has far more convicted sex offenders than south county, according to a Voice of OC analysis of sex offender convictions.
Roughly 63 percent of the county’s 1,900 sex offenders, according to the analysis, live north of the 55 Freeway, which runs east-to-west from Yorba Linda to Newport Beach.
More people in general live north of the 55 and it’s generally less expensive, but other factors, like the decisions of parole officers and the number of parks and school grounds also influence where paroled offenders tend to congregate. North County has far fewer neighborhood parks than south county, for example.
— TRACY WOOD