Sex offender restrictions may be repealed in Downey

DOWNEY -- The Downey City Council on Tuesday will consider repealing a city ordinance that prohibits registered sex offenders from living or loitering near parks and schools after the state Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that similar restrictions in San Diego are unconstitutional. In 2009, Downey enacted residency restrictions for sex offenders that not only barred them from loitering within 300 feet of parks, schools and daycare centers, but also prohibited them from living together, even temporarily in hotels and motels.

Downey Municipal Code also established "residential exclusion zones," which kept registered sex offenders out of neighborhoods that were within 2,000 feet of parks, schools, childcare centers and the library.

On March 2, however, the Supreme Court ruled that similar restrictions in San Diego County were unconstitutional because it barred sex offenders from 97 percent of the available housing in the county.

Critics had also argued that the restrictions forced sex offenders into homelessness, making it more difficult for law enforcement to track their locations and activities.

In its decision, the Supreme Court relied on studies "that found that homeless sex offenders are difficult to supervise and track, and locate for arrest, and therefore present an increased danger to the public," Downey city attorney Yvette Abich Garcia wrote in a report to council members.

Downey suspended enforcement of sex offender residency restrictions last year, after the California Court of Appeal ruled that local statutes are preempted by state law, which already regulates the movement of registered sex offenders, according to Garcia's report.