Irvine Councilman Jeffrey Lalloway’s proposal Tuesday night to ban sex offenders from city parks was not enthusiastically received by the City Council’s Democratic majority.
The majority’s ambivalence on the issue can be summed up with this question: Who is the bigger threat to child safety, a convicted sex offender or a convicted drunk driver?
Lalloway’s proposal is based on an Orange County ordinance adopted in April that bans sex offenders from county parks. Since the county’s law has no jurisdiction in city parks, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas has been urging cities to pass similar ordinances.
A move to have a draft ordinance prepared and brought back for a council vote was ultimately supported by all council members, but only on the condition that they get more information about the need for such an ordinance from city Police Chief David Maggard.
“Let’s get our priorities straight, let’s understand the problems that are out there,” said Councilman Larry Agran. “I want us to keep our eye on the ball.”
Agran then turned to the threat of convicted drunk drivers, calling them a much bigger threat to public safety than the 45 registered sex offenders who live in the city. Agran said he was much more interested in knowing if there is a convicted drunk driver living in his neighborhood.
“The truth of the matter is they’re a much greater threat to my family, to my children, to me, than a handful of sex offenders,” Agran said. He added that he wanted to see an alcohol ban at parks enforced as a “first priority.”
Irvine is a city chock full of green space. There are 18 community parks and 37 city parks, Mayor Sukhee Kang said. Also, the city’s Great Park is expected to add more open space when the 19.5 acre North Lawn opens this summer.
Whether those parks are under threat of frequent visits by sex offenders is also a question. Of the county’s more than 1,800 sex offenders, the vast majority live north of the 55 freeway, as Voice of OC reported earlier. Part of the reason for that is sex offenders by law can’t live within 2,000 ft. of a park.
For Republican Lalloway, who has two young daughters, the ordinance was a no-brainer, and he became increasingly frustrated as the Democratic council majority expressed skepticism about its necessity.
“Do we have a problem? Well I would like to have this ordinance enacted before we have a problem, not after,” Lalloway said.
Lalloway wasn’t alone. Both Rackauckas and former supervisor and state Assemblyman Todd Spitzer showed up to voice their support. Spitzer co-authored the assembly bill that created the Megan’s Law website, which is an online database that tracks where sex offenders live. Rackauckas and Spitzer both spoke in favor of the ordinance.
“This is really a shining opportunity for this city to protect our children and our future to protect our children from convicted — these are convicted — sex offenders,” Spitzer said.
Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens also attended the meeting and talked about how the county law provided a useful tool for her deputies.
Council is supposed to take the issue up again within 45 days, and Lalloway said he was confident that Maggard would return to council with the conclusion that the ordinance will be an “important arrow” for the police department.