Wary of lawsuits, Downey rolls back restrictions on sex offenders

DOWNEY – The City Council on Tuesday reluctantly but unanimously voted to roll back its residency restrictions on registered sex offenders after the state Supreme Court ruled that similar restrictions in San Diego County are unconstitutional. State law already prohibits sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of parks and schools. In 2009, Downey went a step further by creating “residential exclusion zones” that also barred sex offenders from living near childcare centers and the library.

Such restrictions could be challenged in court and Downey would likely lose based on recent court decisions, warned city attorney Yvette Abich Garcia.

On March 2, the state 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,” 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.

Despite rolling back its residency restrictions on sex offenders, officials said they don’t expect the city to be any less safe.

Police Chief Carl Charles said his police department has yet to file charges against any sex offender under the city ordinance.

And Garcia said the District Attorney’s office generally does not prosecute sex offenders for violations under local ordinances.

Councilman Sean Ashton instructed Garcia to investigate whether the city can bill sex offenders to cover the costs of police supervision.

“I don’t want sex offenders here. I don’t care where else they have to go, I just don’t want them here,” he said.

“My sympathies are not with sexual offenders who can’t find places to live or work, but with the victims who face a lifetime of therapy,” added resident Carlos Galvan Jr. in comments to council members.

 

  • In other action, council members began discussions on how to improve security at local parks. Two possibilities are installing more cameras in parks or hiring part-time park rangers.

Four cameras were installed at Brookshire Park three weeks ago, and although the sample time is small, the police chief said it has already cut down on loitering.

Installing surveillance cameras at Downey’s remaining 11 parks would cost an initial $391,110, plus recurring annual costs of $22,440.

Police Chief Charles said he would also need at least 2-3 additional employees to monitor the cameras.

“Conceptually, this sounds like a good idea, but right now it’s premature,” said Councilman Fernando Vasquez.

The discussion is expected to continue as the city gets closer to adopting a 2015-16 fiscal budget.

 

  • Also at Tuesday night’s meeting, Councilman Vasquez announced that all three lanes on the Firestone Boulevard bridge should be open by September, when Florence Avenue will be reduced to a single lane near the 605 Freeway due to freeway construction.
  • The City Council approved a $3.18 million joint project with Pico Rivera to improve the intersection of Lakewood Boulevard and Telegraph Road.

The project calls for widening the south side of Telegraph and the east and west sides of Lakewood in order to add additional turn lanes.

Crews will also install double left-turn lanes in the eastbound, westbound and northbound directions, and exclusive right-turn lanes in the eastbound and northbound directions.

There will also be decorative crosswalks and street lights, new trees, modified traffic signals, and more.

 

  • CalMet received authorization for a 1.58% increase in its fees for residential trash service, and a 0.75% increase for commercial customers.

 

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Published: March 26, 2015 - Volume 13 - Issue 50