Five years after California voters approved Jessica’s Law, a yearlong legal challenge in state courts is allowing potentially dangerous sex offenders to live closer to children.
Paroled sex offenders claim the residency requirements under Proposition 83, otherwise known as Jessica's Law, are so strict that many have turned to prison or homelessness to survive. They are fighting the requirement that any registered sex offender is barred from living within 2,000 feet of any school or playground where children gather.
In Nov. 2010 an LA County Superior Court judge ruled the restriction increased the homeless population of paroled sex offenders, endangering the public and issued a stay. The ruling was temporary, however, as a flood of lawsuits from other paroled sex offenders flooded the courts.
As litigation unfolds, The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office has eased back on enforcement of the residency restriction, putting some of the most dangerous sex offenders, those accused of crimes against children, closer to schools and parks.
According to information provided by the Megan's Law web site, at least seven paroled sex offenders claimed residence well inside 2,000 feet of some Glendora schools and parks.
One parolee, charged with lewd or lascivious act with a child under 14, claimed residence at least 700 feet from .
Another, accused of oral copulation with a minor under 14 years Of age or by force or fear, claimed residence less than 700 feet from and less than 500 feet from Willow Springs Park.
While the Megan's Law web site includes the most current information provided by local police departments on a parolee's residency, the parolees are required to notify authorities about their residency within five days of moving and may have done so recently.
For Glendora, like all cities countywide, all the city can do is wait while the court battles continue.
"Whether it's going to be enforced statewide and countywide, that's a different question," said Wayne Leech, Glendora city attorney.
Leech said that the city tends to follow the lead of the County DA. If they will ramp up enforcement or continue to ease back, the city will follow suit one way or the other.
In July, The LA County Court of Appeals overturned the stay, calling it premature, saying that it may be unconstitutional on a case-by-case basis and such evidence has yet to be shown, Leech said.
"You kind of have to ask yourself the question, is that something that we want to try to enforce right now," Leech said.
Glendora is currently home to 59 registered sex offenders. Of those, 35 are listed under the Megan's Law web site for the seriousness of their crimes.
Of those 35, three must wear GPS devices.
Many cities, including Glendora, have so many schools and parks that housing for paroled sex offenders is virtually impossible to find.
"I think if you look at a map, there's virtually no place in the city of Glendora that any of these registered could live," said Lt. Brian Summers of Glendora Police. "If it's any park or school, it's basically just about any one of them."
Glendora adopted a municipal code mirroring the state's residency requirements a little over a year ago, Summers said. The code was being fully enforced, but Leech recommended the suspension of the law to see the outcome of county court cases.
"We don't want to get ourselves involved in needless litigation over the constitutionality of our ordinance," Leech said. "The public's health and safety welfare is of paramount importance as well. Law enforcement and state and local legislators have to try to deal with it."
To meet other requirements under the law, Glendora Police may team up with probation to perform compliance checks on parolees. Glendora detectives will even perform their own checks. Parolees must submit to a search of their residence and have a current photograph taken, Summers said.
"We keep an eye on where they are at," Leech said about Glendora's registered sex offenders. "I think the laws that are in place do a pretty good job of protecting the health and safety of our citizens."