Sex offender ordinance on hold
South Lake Tahoe will put on hold an idea for an ordinance limiting where sex offenders can live until after the fate of a November proposition on tracking such criminals is known.
A presentation at last week’s City Council meeting provided council members with insight on the 52 registered sex offenders in South Lake Tahoe.
Proposition 83, the so-called Jessica’s Law initiative, would force many sex offenders to wear satellite-tracked monitoring devices for life and prohibit them from living within 2,000 feet of a park or school.
Council member Kathay Lovell, who also serves on a committee of public safety policy on the League of California Cities, said further investigation needs to be done to determine whether places such as the recreation center and ballfields in South Lake Tahoe would be included as off-limit areas.
“I think it’s a way for us to protect the kids in our community,” she said. “Our children are very important to us, obviously.”
If the proposition fails, Lovell said, the council could use the information provided by South Lake Tahoe police Detective Robbie Hight and ponder an ordinance similar to the elements of Proposition 83.
“It’s hard to say because it was just an information presentation,” Lovell said. “As for me, I feel very strongly about protecting our children.”
Parent Brenda Rogers feels more strongly.
“I think 2,000 feet is too close,” she said. “I think they should live somewhere far and alone.”
While living in Southern California two years ago, Rogers said her young daughter was approached by a convicted sex offender before running away. Now living at South Lake Tahoe, she keeps a binder holding information on offenders living in town from the Megan’s Law Web site.
“They’re everywhere and people have to keep an eye out where they are,” she said.
Rogers’ advice might be easier to follow after a task force created by Gov. Arnold Schwarz-enegger recommended last week that the victims of high-risk sex offenders and the communities they would call home after their release from prison would get early warning when offenders are about to be paroled.
Offenders also should be monitored intensively with satellite tracking and polygraph tests, according to the High-Risk Sex Offender Task Force.
The group’s 10-point plant provides “a roadmap to success about how they can be placed back into the community,” said Assemblyman Rudy Bermudez, D-Norwalk, a task force co-chairman who also is a parole officer.
Schwarzenegger directed the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to begin adopting recommendations in the 46-page report, which is one of several efforts under way in California to tighten laws dealing with sex offenders.
The Legislature is considering separate sex-offender bills, and voters will be asked in November to vote on Proposition 83. The so-called Jessica’s Law initiative would force many sex offenders to wear satellite-tracked monitoring devices for life and prohibit them from living within 2,000 feet of a park or school.
Schwarzenegger created the bipartisan body in May in response to complaints by Bermudez and the task force’s co-chair, Assemblyman Todd Spitzer, R-Orange. They said paroled sex offenders were living near schools and other locations frequented by children, and were being moved regularly to avoid residency registration requirements. Their report did not address those allegations.
The task force recommended that victims should be told 90 days before the release of the person who attacked them, while local law enforcement agencies should be given 60 days notice. That would give communities time to work with prison officials to find acceptable housing.
The early notice gives the public time “to arm itself – not with weapons, but with information,” Spitzer said.
Of about 10,000 paroled sex offenders, the task force said about 3,200 are considered most likely to commit new crimes. Those parolees should get intensive treatment three to five years before they are released and around-the-clock monitoring once they are paroled, according to the report.
Adequate treatment and tracking has not happened previously because of financial and legal constraints, according to members of the task force, which includes legislators and representatives of victims’ rights organizations, law enforcement agencies and local governments.
This year, the state began tracking nearly 500 offenders with Global Positioning System bracelets in a program that eventually will be expanded to 2,000 parolees.
Most of the task force’s recommendations are directed to the corrections department. But it also endorsed a bill co-authored by Spitzer that would create a permanent board to advise parole officers as laws and technology changes.
The task force also said legislators should change state law to specify on the Megan’s Law Web site which sex offenders are considered high risk and which are being monitored with GPS.
In a Cabinet Room briefing Tuesday, Schwarzenegger praised the “really terrific recommendations” and directed the task force to keep working this fall. He said he wants more advice on where offenders should be housed and what should be done with sexually violent predators who are released from psychiatric hospitals.
The report took on political overtones as Schwarzenegger seeks re-election in November.
The co-chairs insisted on including a recommendation that all sex offenders – not just those considered to be high-risk – be tracked with GPS bracelets, even though those offenders are beyond the scope of the task force’s mission.
Spitzer and Bermudez said during a final task force hearing last week that the change was needed so the recommendations would be consistent with Schwarzenegger’s support of the Jessica’s Law initiative. That measure includes a provision for tracking sex offenders. “We’re actually protecting the governor with the position he’s taken politically,” Bermudez said during the meeting, which was attended by an Associated Press reporter.
– Associated Press writer Don Thompson and Tahoe Daily Tribune reporter William Ferchland contributed to this report