The Old Gray Lady has confronted your friendly neighborhood park pervert.
Chuting in from an international kerfuffle unknown, The New York Times has discovered the growing phenomenon of Orange County parks being declared off limits to convicted sex offenders.
Actually, reporter Ian Lovett uses the OC experience as the set-up to his Tuesday piece, which explores pervs-in-parks bans across the land.
Lovett of course touches base with Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, who along with county Supervisor Shawn Nelson concocted the original county ban approved unanimously in April 2011, and who has pushed some of OC's 34 incorporated cities to approve their own ordinances.
"We need to protect our kids," T-Rack is quoted telling the Mission Viejo City Council. "The danger is very real."
The danger, according to an author and lawyer from the Orange County Public Defender's office who turn up in the article, is that child safety zones give the public a false sense of security, because someone out to molest a kid is not going to be stopped by a shiny new park sign.
"The very notion that a park ordinance could in any way protect children, more than an attentive caregiver's presence or any other way we protect our children, is absurd," says the public defender, Irene Pai.
She also makes the point that those convicted of relatively minor crimes years ago, such as indecent exposure for urinating in public, may still carry sex offender brands that would bar them from working or joining their families in parks declared child safety zones.
The city of Irvine's ban only applies to pervs who have preyed on children. The more strict county law--all sex offenders verboten--has been picked up by Westminster, La Habra, Los Alamitos, Huntington Beach, Yorba Linda, Laguna Hills, Lake Forest, Mission Viejo, Rancho Santa Margarita, Seal Beach and Costa Mesa. Santa Ana became the latest city to approve such an ordinance on first reading May 21. Other OC cities are clearing off agenda space to consider similar bans.
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Under these laws, registered sex offenders can seek waivers from the Orange County Sheriff's Department, when dealing with parks and recreational areas it patrols. (Cities with bans and police forces have their departments make that call.)
Lovett reports that only one out of 15 applications submitted to the county so far was approved. Among those denied were a locksmith and commercial fisherman who needed access to their jobs at Dana Point Harbor and someone who wanted to attend a memorial service for his Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor.
But Rackauckas defends child safety zones in the Times, explaining, "We're not going to know how many kids were not molested or groomed for later sexual contact as a result of this law."