Sex offender ordinance tougher than state law

It expands 2,000-foot zone by measuring the distance in a straight line
2012-07-15T00:05:00Z Sex offender ordinance tougher than state lawBy John Sakata / Staff writer / jsakata@lompocrecord.com Lompoc Record

A recently enacted ordinance regulating where sex offenders can live in Lompoc would significantly expand state restrictions, making it illegal for sex offenders to take up residence in most parts of the city.

 Jessica’s Law, passed in 2006  by California voters, currently prohibits sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of parks and schools, in addition to other restrictions.

Ordinance No. 1583(12), enacted in June unanimously by the City Council, at the request of the Lompoc Police Department, creates a 2,000-foot residential exclusion zone — consistent with Jessica’s Law — but expands that zone by making it clear that the distance is to be measured in a straight line between the residential property and schools and parks.

Also, instead of prohibiting residence of sex offenders near just schools and parks, the ordinance includes childcare centers, public libraries, commercial establishments that provide a playground, and Lompoc Unified School District’s eight school bus stops.

The ordinance, which would apply to anyone who was required to register under California Penal Code Section 290 sex offenses, regardless of whether they are on parole or probation, also implemented a 300-foot “Child Safety Zone,” prohibiting residence or loitering “with the intent to commit a sex offense.”

Sex offenders would be prohibited from renting or occupying a single-family dwelling — a facility which serves six or fewer people will not be counted — apartment or motel that is occupied by another sex offender.

And anyone that “knowingly” allows a sex offender to occupy a room on the same property as another sex offender could be charged with a misdemeanor.

“A responsible party shall be prohibited from knowingly allowing a guest room in a motel to be rented or otherwise occupied by a registered sex offender as a temporary or permanent resident if there is already a registered sex offender renting or otherwise occupying another guest room in that motel .. ..” the ordinance states.

Under the ordinance, a registered sex offender, for example, would not be allowed to temporarily live in their parents’ house if that house happened to be within 2,000 feet of a school bus stop or other designated residential exclusion zone property.

“It may be a strict ordinance but it’s done with two purposes,” Police Chief Timothy Dabney said. “It’s done to protect the youth in the community from sexual predators and passed to define discrepancy in the state’s Jessica’s Law.”

Lompoc police might intend to protect children, but others say the ordinance is not based on best-practice research surrounding sex offenders, and could even aggravate problems by putting them in a high-stress situation because they can’t find a home.

“These laws are a reaction to certain high profile cases,” said Assistant Public Defender James Voysey, who regularly represents sex offenders in court. “They are not based on scientific analysis or on recidivism rates and what causes sex offenses. There is no research that correlates where someone lives with sex offending. By creating this banishment situation for offenders, it puts them at a higher risk for acting out,” Voysey said.

Too many in the public, a sex offenders’ problems are of little concerns, which is no surprise to Voysey.

“You won’t find anyone critical of sex offender laws because they are pariahs,” he said.  

Deputy Chief of Adult Services Tanja Heitman, of the Santa Barbara County Probation Department, said the ordinance could make if more difficult for her department to monitor sex offenders, especially if they become homeless.

“In general, offenders who are unable to find housing  are at increased risk to engage in criminal behavior,” Heitman stated in an email response. “In the case of sex offenders, we are attempting to monitor them closely, however, this can be challenging when the ordinance limits their ability to maintain a stable residence.”

Currently there are 90 sex offenders living in Lompoc, according to police investigator Harry Heidt. The Megan’s Law website, which tracks the residency of most types of sex offenders, states that Lompoc has 63 registrants, but Heidt said that there are other sex offenders, charged with lesser crimes such as exhibition or flashing, that the city watches with its own database.

Heidt, who is in charge of enforcing registration for sex offenders, said that there have been no charges filed because of the ordinance yet.

The ordinance would not take effect against anyone who occupied a property prior to June 1, but it stipulates that any sex offender who moves from their current residence would be subject to the rules.

The ordinance applies to Section 290 offenders, which includes most instances of rape, sexual battery, acts relating to child pornography, child molesters, forced acts and indecent exposure.

Heidt said that “90 percent” of the city living space is off limits to sex offenders.

There are currently no apartments or motels in Lompoc that are not covered by the ordinance, he said. A sex offender would have to rent a room in a residence or rent a house, he said.

“There are very few places they can live,” he said. Additional areas could be made off limits or available for residence depending on the opening and closing of facilities around the area.

However, passing an ordinance is not a cure all for problems. Heitman, of the probation department, said that the ordinance can cause unnecessary problems in the lives of sex offenders.

“We have offenders in Santa Maria that reside in a motel because their residence options are very limited. Several offenders sleep in their cars due to limited finances that prohibit them from regularly staying in a hotel and not being able to find another option,” Heitman said.

Voysey, of the Public Defender Office, said that there are better options for  monitoring the activity of sex offenders. Global Positioning Systems which monitor the movement of sex offenders, supervision, and support are more effective means of reducing the likelihood of repeat offenses, he said.

Voysey said the perception that offenses against children are perpetrated by someone who would “hide in a bush and grab them while they go to school” is false.

The California Department of Justice website states that 90 percent of child victims know their offenders, while almost half of the offenders are family members.

Sex offenders need support to get over problems, Voysey said. The city ordinance could break up families and keep sex offenders from staying with loved ones just because their parents live near a school bus stop, he said.

The City Council adopted the ordinance April 17 with little discussion. Misdemeanor charges against individuals who knowingly allow more than one sex offender on property, and the prohibition against allowing more than one sex offender on a property, was never mentioned during the meeting or in a staff report.

The Santa Maria City Council in November 2011 took similar steps to clarify  language in Jessica’s Law, but the ordinance only stipulated that a 2,000-foot direct line would be used for determining residential zoning.

Heidt acknowledged that there have been “very few” cases of repeat sex offenses in Lompoc. He said that the police department database does not identify sex offenders who have committed another sex offense. In the few number of repeat sex offenses, they have not been acts of violence, he said.

“It was that they download child porn and not something that happened to a live victim,” Heidt said.

Asked how apartment or motel owners are supposed to monitor whether more than one offender is staying on the premise, Heidt said that apartment owners should change applications forms to ask if an applicant is a Section 290 registrant.

Copyright 2015 Lompoc Record. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(20) Comments

  1. FRegistryTerrorists
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    FRegistryTerrorists - July 20, 2012 5:30 am
    The law is for stupid people, period. It will also be exactly like Registration in general is - counterproductive.

    You people who want nanny big government: What are YOU doing to get more Registries created? What are YOU doing to pay more taxes?
  2. Staghorn
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    Staghorn - July 19, 2012 11:33 am
    Neither am I an "advocate for criminal rights", but this ordinance is going too far. I believe it was put into motion to clarify state law as to distance from from restricted areas an offender is allowed to live. Not surprisingly, they erred on the 'what they think is' safe side. Apparently everybody either missed or ignored the part in the article about this ordinances likleyhood of backfiring and causing more registants to become homeless and therefore more dificult to track.

    It is foolhardy to decide issues and pass laws based on emotion rather than facts and reason. At the least it will cost to enact, then reverse the new law. At worst it puts us all at more risk.
  3. FRegistryTerrorists
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    FRegistryTerrorists - July 19, 2012 10:29 am
    Opiumnated:

    I wouldn't call myself an "advocate for criminal rights". I'm just a moral American who isn't stupid. I'm also not a fan of nanny big government. We have far, far, far too many laws and far, far, far too many people who can't mind their own business, won't leave other people alone, and think it is fine to have governments telling everyone every little thing that should be done. Yet, you people don't want to pay taxes.

    The Registries, and the moronic laws that they have enabled and promoted (e.g. like this one), are negligibly and unnecessary beneficial, counterproductive, immoral, un-American, diversionary, stupid, and often illegal. They are worse than worthless. And if they are not, where are the rest of the Registries? Those Registries should have been created a decade ago and laws like this should be applied to all those people. That's undebatable.

    And oh yes, a child molester can live next door to me any day. They are much, much safer than 90% of the felons that we have in this country (that we can't be bothered to Register, BTW). A child molester next door is no problem. I am a parent who pays attention and I don't need nanny big government to help me raise my children or tell me where the "bad guys" are. I assume everyone is a bad guy.
  4. 92girl
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    92girl - July 18, 2012 5:23 pm
    I totally agree with you FRegistryTerrorists - it's all about control.
  5. FRegistryTerrorists
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    FRegistryTerrorists - July 18, 2012 7:42 am
    Opiumnated:

    I wouldn't call myself an "advocate for criminal rights". I'm just a moral American who isn't stupid. I'm also not a fan of nanny big government. We have far, far, far too many laws and far, far, far too many people who can't mind their own business, won't leave other people alone, and think it is fine to have governments telling everyone every little thing that should be done. Yet, you people don't want to pay taxes.

    The Registries, and the moronic laws that they have enabled and promoted (e.g. like this one), are negligibly and unnecessary beneficial, counterproductive, immoral, un-American, diversionary, stupid, and often illegal. They are worse than worthless. And if they are not, where are the rest of the Registries? Those Registries should have been created a decade ago and laws like this should be applied to all those people. That's undebatable.

    And oh yes, a child molester can live next door to me any day. They are much, much safer than 90% of the felons that we have in this country (that we can't be bothered to Register, BTW). A child molester next door is no problem. I am a parent who pays attention and I don't need nanny big government to help me raise my children or tell me where the "bad guys" are. I assume everyone is a bad guy.
  6. Opinionated
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    Opinionated - July 17, 2012 7:44 pm
    Oh, by the way....

    just my opinion
  7. Opinionated
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    Opinionated - July 17, 2012 7:44 pm
    Okay all you advocates for criminal rights, how about the headlines in the paper tonight. Another "alleged" sex offender taken off the streets who is accused of molesting young girls on a club team. Which one of you wants him moving in next door to you?? Come on, don't be shy, just publish your address and invite him into the neighborhood.
  8. ShellyStow
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    ShellyStow - July 17, 2012 6:32 am
    Kristine, I'm sorry but I must disagree with you. This isn't about protecting the children. If it were, it would look entirely different. It wouldn't focus on the registry or those on it when almost all sexual crime against children isn't committed by those on the registry but by those in their lives on a close and regular basis, starting with those who live in the same house with them.
    If it were about protecting children, this is a lot of what it would look like:
    Victim services that focus on healing, not revenge.
    Educational, awareness, and prevention programs flooding schools and communities.
    Intense therapy and re-entry programs for those who have offended that offer a serious and realistic hope of community re-integration.
    As far as what it is about, I fear it is about what has always been summed up in these words: follow the money--and in this case I would add the political and power--trail.
  9. FRegistryTerrorists
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    FRegistryTerrorists - July 17, 2012 5:34 am
    stayfree:

    Opiumnated didn't say that "let God sort them out" was part of any scripture. I'm sure you are aware that it is just part of a popular redneck saying. I wouldn't worry about those kind of people anyway; hateful people like that probably can't be saved and will end up in H*ll.

    Apparently all the thieving terrorists who support these types of laws have to offer is empty hate. None of them seem able to address why these laws aren't applied to all people who have been convicted of any crime that harmed someone. The fact that they are not is plenty of proof (as if we needed more), that the witch hunt is not really about the lies of "public safety" or "protecting children". No, the thieving terrorists are also liars.
  10. stayfree
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    stayfree - July 17, 2012 5:05 am
    Opinionated, you might want to try reading scripture if you want to bring it in the discussion. I don't recall the statement "and let God sort them out" being in the Bible. However I do know it says the following: "Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven", Luke 6:37.
  11. Opinionated
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    Opinionated - July 16, 2012 8:01 pm
    Well spoken kristine. I can promise you that if anyone ever touches one of my loved ones, a price will be paid!
  12. Opinionated
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    Opinionated - July 16, 2012 7:59 pm
    Why the other cities and not Lompoc...cause my family lives here, plain and simple!
  13. Opinionated
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    Opinionated - July 16, 2012 7:58 pm
    Let's see, since we are bringing the Lord into this I seem to remember a saying that goes something like this. ....................and let God sort them out.
  14. 92girl
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    92girl - July 16, 2012 5:00 pm
    I hate people who lump "Offenders" in one cattegory. They aren't all the same also. Have you heard of lying teens? You don't want one living next to you seriously? "offenders" have families and they need a house too. gee Oh ,and they are already in your city. Those people are human, and deserve normal lives. I pray for you. Christians don't condemn either does our lord. No it's never ok to hurt children or anyone, but sometimes those so called offenders are innocent!!! Adults need rights to. Sorry I get mad at closed minded people. All familes deserve normal lives no one on this earth is better.
  15. FRegistryTerrorists
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    FRegistryTerrorists - July 16, 2012 9:07 am
    This is just another criminal regime attempting to commit new crimes.

    Is there any particular reason that they don't apply their new little law to all people who have been convicted of harming someone? Because that would make too much sense? Would that just be too hard for the criminal regime to handle?

    The governments that run the SEX OFFENDER Registries are criminal regimes. The people who zealously support the Registries, and especially the idiotic adjunct laws that they have enabled and promoted (e.g. such as this one), are simply terrorists who cannot mind their own business and leave other people alone. Punish the terrorists!

    I parented my children today without the help of nanny big government. I am not a person who needs the SEX OFFENDER witch hunt Registries and their associated stupidity.
  16. stayfree
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    stayfree - July 16, 2012 6:06 am
    This is a problem that America has really not figured out how to handle. Obviously protecting people is the most important thing. But remember, you have to operate within the law. I along with everyone else wouldn't want a sex offender living next to me. But we need to figure out how to handle these cases. Opinionated, so why is it ok for the citizens of Santa Maria or Santa Barbara to have sex offenders living there but not Lompoc? Also, you pass a law that only controls where they live, not where they travel by. I'm certain when they go to the grocery store they pass closer than 2000 feet of a school or park. So what are you really accomplishing by this law? I know some will think I'm sympathetic towards sex offenders because I'm not avocating the death penalty for everything from J walking on up. As you can see by the statistics, very few child molestations are committed by strangers. 90 percent are by someone the child knows with half being a family member. The bad part is when people here terms like sex offender the image that comes to their mind is a stranger abducting a child, raping them, then killing them and leaving them in a field somewhere. Kind of a worst case senerio image. I read a case one time where a 17 year old boy and a 16 year old girl were dating and having sex. Both sets of parents where aware of the fact they were having sex. Time went by and the boy turned 18 and the girl turned 17. As with most relationships at that age, they broke up. The girl was heart broken and that angered her parents who went to police and filed charges against the boy since he was now 18. It went to court and he was convicted of statatory rape and had to register as a sex offender. This is not a made up story, but is fact. Now I ask you, is this kid really a threat to society? I'm not going to try to claim I have the answer to this problem but one thing I can say is what we have be doing and are doing is not solving anything and in some cases might be making the problem worse.
  17. kristine
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    kristine - July 15, 2012 3:24 pm
    This law is for protecting the child not the offender. Who cares about what is good for the offender. If the offender is having a hard time finding a place to live then he can move out of the city and go to a bigger city where there is more room for him to live. That offender should be happy he is alive and still breathing. In Texas this man hired a man to work at his ranch and he was working and heard his 4 yr old little girl crying for help and he ran over to see what was the matter and found this worker he hired molesting his daughter and started beating the man and ended up killing him in the process. He was remorsful but the offender got what he deserved in the eyes of the people there... So now if a offender is caught in Cali and gets beatened by the parent what do you think is going to happen to that parent. And the offender get a slap on the hand. This law is for the children not the offender.
  18. Staghorn
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    Staghorn - July 15, 2012 11:58 am
    When the facts, as laid out in the article, are weighed out, this ordinace seems like another knee jerk, bad idea.
  19. Opinionated
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    Opinionated - July 15, 2012 8:58 am
    As a citizen of Lompoc I can honestly say that I do not want these people in my city, let them live in Santa Maria or Santa Barbara. Thank you to the people who put this ordinanace together and thank you to a City Council brave enough to enact it.

    just my opinion
  20. oncefallendotcom
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    oncefallendotcom - July 15, 2012 8:26 am
    the problems with residency restrictions are already well-documented. You only have to look a few states over to Iowa, who passed a statewide 2000 foot residency restriction law, which was then the toughest in the nation, back in 2005. After one year of the laws passage, homelessness and absconded offenders increased four times over, while sex crimes rates slightly increased. The law ultimately made it more difficult to keep tabs on those forced to register. In 2009, Iowa repealed residency restrictions for the majority of those on the registry. Another place struggling with overbearing residency restrictions is South Florida, where 2500 foot residency restrictions for some individuals to live under a bridge in Miami. Even today, nearly 2 years after they were forced out from under the Julia Tuttle Causeway, many of them are still homeless and are now nomadic, moving from location to location within the cities. Some areas of Florida are now considering a repeal of their personal ordinance of 2500 feet, which is 2 1/2 times as far as the state wide restriction. Studies have shown these laws do not work, and they backfire, increasing the chances somebody will go out and commit a new offense.
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