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City OKs Stricter Park Sex Offender Ban

On a 4-0 vote, Lake Forest's City Council tentatively approves a measure to ban registered sex offenders from city parks. It's tougher than the county law that inspired it.

A proposal to ban registered sex offenders from Lake Forest city parks, modeled after a , could end up being the most stringent in Orange County.

After hearing from 16 emotional public speakers—some pleading for passage of the law, others begging the council to nix it—Lake Forest officials voted 4-0 Tuesday to approve the measure, with a clause that makes it stricter than the original county ban.

The county law, which has spurred a number of Orange County cities to pass laws that mirror it, makes it a misdemeanor for a registered sex offender to be in a county-run area where children gather, such as a park or beach. However, written permission from the Sheriff's Department can override that.

Lake Forest's ban, which would cover the city's 27 parks, grants no exceptions.

A line of speakers shared personal experiences in a bid to sway the council vote. (Councilman Mark Tettemer was absent due to illness.) 

Local parents said they would feel safer knowing registered sex offenders were not allowed in parks.

“These parks are places for our kids to be kids and part of what makes Lake Forest such an attractive place to raise kids,” said Erin Hoskinson, a mother of three. "This ordinance is about preserving Lake Forest as a family city.”

But attorney Janice Bellucci, state organizer with Reform State Offender Laws, asserted that the park ban is not the best way to protect children.

Most sexual assaults on children are conducted by family members or friends, she said. Only 1.2 percent of such assaults take place in parks, she asserted.

The ordinance is also “overly broad,” which makes its open to challenges in court, Bellucci said.

She requested a 180-day review period before a council vote.

Others offered more personal stories.

Elise Lindsey told the council that her father's expunged conviction for a sex offense 30 years ago should make officials think twice about passing the ban.

Other than being listed as a registered sex offender, "my dad is just like you," Lindsey said. If the ban passes, "I would not be able to enjoy time with my father at the park or enjoy my future child’s birthday party at the park," she said. “[The] protection of children is paramount—as is the protection of our civic rights," she said.

Also opposing the ban was a registered sex offender who said the law would unfairly lump all sex offenses into one category.

"I didn’t have sex with anyone. I didn’t try to have sex with anyone," Jeffrey McBride said. Yet, "my life has been utterly destroyed in the last four years."

(According to Megan's Law records, McBride was convicted of possessing child pornography.)

Soon after McBride's testimony, Orange County District Attorney Chief of Staff Susan Schroeder said McBride's statements had "no credibility" because his claim of not engaging in illegal sex was false.

Schroeder said she had "seen [McBride's] file," and asserted that photographs found on his computer showed him having sex with children.

McBride angrily denied her assertion immediately.

The outburst was followed by Mayor Peter Herzog asking Schroeder to limit her comments to generalities, rather than singling out audience members.

Earlier, Kelly Hagins, a local advocate for the ban, urged the council to "prioritize" the community's children. “I’m sorry someone can’t go to a park, but my son’s future, his health and safety are more important than that,” she said.

Under the proposal approved Tuesday, registered sex offenders would be prohibited from entering parks owned, leased, operated or maintained by the city.

The proposal was  by .

In November,  and fast-tracked a proposal modeled after the county's ban for discussion.

It will return for final approval Dec. 20. If OK'ed at that meeting, it would take effect 30 days later.

Lake Forest Citizen Paying Attention December 08, 2011 at 06:55 AM
David - you are misguided at best, and more likely an indication of a complete lack of knowledge on the subject. I was there last night with my son. I got up and spoke, as I had done at the prior meeting, in favor of this ordinance. Clearly your mind is closed on this issue and you either weren't paying attention to who spoke and what they said, or you chose to intentionally ignore the fact that this was not a men vs women issue. Last night was much more an issue of parents who are concerned about making sure we are doing everything possible to protect children and registered sex offenders who don't like the fact that they are still paying for the poor choices they have made and the grotesque things they have done in acting on those choices. Your observations that there were no husbands there to support the children tells me two things: 1) You either don't have children of your own or you have never been an active parent in their lives if you do, and 2) again, you either weren't paying attention or you are intentionally misrepresenting the facts since I spoke and I am both a husband and father. Had you been at the prior meeting you would know Ms. Schroder was not at the prior meeting but about 1/2 of the women that spoke were there as speakers both nights. I can't help but wonder why it is that they were there both nights, but you only showed up when a bunch of RSOs were there. Perhaps it is you that was brought in as opposition, not these women you are lashing out at?
Lake Forest Citizen Paying Attention December 08, 2011 at 07:06 AM
As for those who are concerned that this ordinance is a waste of resources. This ordinance was sought by and supported in earnest by the OC Sheriff's Department and the OCDA. Both organizations are tasked with the enforcement of law, both operate with limited resources and are quite experienced in balancing and prioritizing those limited resources to maximize their ability to do the job they are tasked with, and BOTH ORGANIZATIONS ASKED FOR THIS ORDINANCE! The professionals believe that this is a valuable tool in their arsenal. I don't know the backgrounds of Shelley, David, and Non Citizen, but I'd be willing to bet that not one of you has ever been trained in the law or in law enforcement. Would you ask a landscaper to do your dental work? A fighter pilot to perform surgery? My guess is you answered those questions in the negative. I choose to ask those trained in law and/or law enforcement to determine the best way to utilize the resources available for conducting law enforcement activities.
Non Citizen December 08, 2011 at 05:51 PM
Shelly: You are absolutely correct but you are talking to unreasonable people. Most of the people who support these laws would rather take the much, much easier route of just harassing people they need to hate instead of actually doing anything to reduce sexual offending. And of course, the media could not be happier with all the empty grandstanding. The fact is, as a parent, you MUST assume that anyone is a child molester and you MUST be prepared for that. You MUST supervise AND educate your children. If you do not, you are NOT protecting them. And if you do do that, you have zero need for any Registry. Especially ones that leave off the > 98% of the sexual offenders that might harm my children and the millions of people who may harm them non-sexually (or do most Americans parents really not care about people who would shoot their children in the face?). <continued in my next comment>
Non Citizen December 08, 2011 at 05:53 PM
<continued from my previous comment> And there is not a single person in this world, in law enforcement or not (that's for you, Charles C J Brower), who can justify this ordinance. Are you serious? When I was raising my many children, do you think I would have given about damn about whether or not some nanny government told me that they were keeping all the bad guys out of the park? And does anyone actually think this ordinance has more than a 0% chance of actually working? It literally nauseates me that people could think it was useful enough that they would support some criminal, nanny government harassing people who did something wrong 3 freaking decades ago! People should have to take IQ tests before being in government, law enforcement, or being allowed to comment on any of it. And the fact remains, that none of this is about "public safety" or "protecting children". Those are just the lies that are told to sell it and make themselves feel good. The fact that we can't even SPEAK about creating the rest of the Registries or including all the other deserving people into ordinances like this one is more than enough proof. Unless our country continues to deteriorate, this period of our history will be looked back upon like many others are - with greatly deserved shame and disgust.
Non Citizen December 08, 2011 at 05:57 PM
Of course it is a waste of resources. Every single second and penny spent on it is a waste that could have otherwise been used to deal with actual crimes. And do you people actually think the ordinance will do something besides waste resources? If you do, I have some bad news for you. Any Registered person who wants to commit a crime in a park, will be there. You think it's a good thing that law enforcement asked for this ordinance? Good God. Governments and law enforcement in our country will never, ever, ever, ever cease to stop asking taxpayers for more and more resources. Never. They will never have enough to protect us from nothing. And there will ALWAYS be some big bogeyman after us. Seriously, take a look at their "war on drugs" if you want to understand what I am talking about. Further, law enforcement people should be treated and regarded with deep distrust. If you don't think so, you haven't seen reality. Most people who get into law enforcement are not doing it for the right reasons. It is a messed up bunch. If you want to listen to someone, listen to experts. The only good governments and law enforcement, are broke ones. Which is why I spend most of my efforts trying to keep money away from them. The less they have, the better off we are. How long ago was it when O.C. declared bankruptcy? Isn't California completely broke right now? And they just passed that moronic, moronic Jessica's Law! They cannot be bankrupt again fast enough. They deserve it.

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