The possibility of banning registered sex offenders from Lake Forest parks is slated for discussion in early December.
Local parents and advocates of such a ban—modeled after —pushed the City Council to move forward quickly with the steps needed bring it to fruition in Lake Forest at its Tuesday night meeting.
Councilman Scott Voigts, who , called the discussion "way overdue."
Brian , told the council that sex offenders pose many risks to children in addition to possible abuction.
Sex offenders can use parks to observe, photograph or groom—deliberately befriend and establish an emotional connection in preparation for sexual abuse—children, he described.
Fitzpatrick noted that the ban would not affect people convicted of minor sex offenses, such as some instances of statutory rape.
Those registered for life as sex offenders who would be banned are "serious individuals who have committed serious offenses," Fitzpatrick said. "The question at this point is why wouldn't the council take action to protect the children?"
The council should be working to put the ban on the books as soon as possible, Lake Forest resident Charles Brower said.
"This [ordinance] is pretty straightforward and shouldn't take multiple council meetings to put on the agenda," he said.
Erin Runnion, whose 5-year-old daughter Samantha Runnion was kidnapped, sexually assaulted and killed in July 2002, also came to the Lake Forest meeting to urge the council to adopt a park ban for sex offenders.
"[Child sex abuse] is a pandemic issue that devastates lives," she said. The ban would be "just a tool" to help fight against it, Runnion told the council.
Holly Shillig, with the Parent Teacher Association, said she was "horrified" to find out recently that the ban had been but not addressed since.
"I have lived here almost all my life and it devastates me that my city would not make this an immediate action," Shillig said.
She spoke for a group of 50 to 60 parents who she said were at Rancho Canada Elementary Tuesday evening participating in a program to help them guard their children against the same people that the ban would forbid to enter parks.
Lake Forest resident and mother Kelly Hagins also spoke in favor of the ban, saying that "even if it's a misdemeanor, it's a deterrent."
Violations of the ban on entering parks without permission from the sheriff's department would be punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a $500 fine.
Hagins noted the recent conviction of a registered sex offender for violating the county ordinance by entering a county-run park in Fountain Valley on Cinco de Mayo, when many families with children were in the park celebrating the holiday.
Hugo Godinez, 29, Santa Ana, was found guilty of entering the park without the written permission from the sheriff's department. He was also convicted of one misdemeanor count of failing to register and show proof of residency upon release from incarceration. He faces a maximum sentence of one year in Orange County Jail.
Even if the ban faces court challenges, it's worth it, Hagins suggested. "We should not be afraid of lawsuits," the 14-year resident of Lake Forest told the council.
Fitzpatrick said that the DA's Office is convinced of the ban's constitutionality.
The council agreed to discuss the ordinance at its next meeting on Dec. 6.
Other cities, including as , , , Westminster and La Habra have also discussed or enacted similar city ordinances; Irvine implemented a partial ban in June.