Bell Gardens Repeals Section of Sex Offender Law

By Nancy Martinez, EGP Staff Writer

Faced with the threat of lawsuits, the Bell Gardens City Council Monday voted to repeal an ordinance restricting the movement of registered sex offenders in the southeast city.

The council’s decision comes following recent court rulings striking down local sex offender laws that exceed state regulations.

In 2009, Bell Gardens adopted an ordinance that bans registered sex offenders from being within 300 feet of parks and other locations where children gather.

“We’re not doing it because we want to do it, we’re doing it because we’re forced to do it by state law,” Mayor Daniel Crespo said about the reluctance to vote to repeal a section of the city’s sex offender law.

Children play at Veterans Park in Bell Gardens on Monday. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Children play at Veterans Park in Bell Gardens on Monday. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

According to Assistant City Attorney John Lam, Bell Gardens has been placed on a watch list of potential lawsuit targets.

The council also passed a resolution urging state lawmakers to come up with legislation to allow cities like Bell Gardens to adopt more stringent laws regulating where sex offenders can travel in their city.

Current state sex offender laws, known to most as Megan’s Law, requires a sex offender to register with local law enforcement when moving into a city. State law also limits with whom an offender can live, where they can work and the locations they can enter.

Like many cities, Bell Garden took the state law a step further, prohibiting any person required to register as a sex offender from being within 300-feet of areas where children are regularly found, such as parks, recreational facilities and schools, regardless if the person was on parole, probation or had permission from their parole agent, which state law allows.

Lam warned the council that recent court decisions in the cases of People v. Nguyen and People v. Godinez had made the city’s ordinance unenforceable. According to the city attorney, the court struck down local “presence restrictions” and a written analysis presented to the council said the decisions likely also invalidate ordinances regulating a sex offender’s daily life because they exceed state law.

In April, the state Supreme Court declined to review the lower court decisions and a group of individuals has been filing lawsuits against cities with such restrictions ever since, according to Lam,

“What you see is cities getting into litigation only to see them repeal [their laws],” he told the council.

“This attorney realized there’s a market to bring these lawsuits against cities and get attorney fees.”

Lam recommended the city repeal the portion of its sex offender ordinance that goes beyond state regulations.

“You’re doing this reluctantly, because of the court decision,” he told the council. “But we’re asking the state to give us back some of this authority that the court took away.”

“None of the council wants to do this,” Crespo told his fellow council members who appeared hesitant to make the change, but in the end voted unanimously to repeal the potentially litigious portion of the city’s sex offender ordinance.

A second reading of the ordinance change is required before it can take effect, and has been scheduled for the next council meeting. The resolution asking state officials to enact laws granting municipalities the power to regulate the presence of sex offenders within their borders, will also be heard.

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July 31, 2014  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

Comments

14 Responses to “Bell Gardens Repeals Section of Sex Offender Law”

  1. Bell Gardens Repeals Section of Sex Offender Law | CA RSOL on July 31st, 2014 3:41 pm

    […] “We’re not doing it because we want to do it, we’re doing it because we’re forced to do it by state law,” Mayor Daniel Crespo said about the reluctance to vote to repeal a section of the city’s sex offender law. Full Article […]

  2. a reader on July 31st, 2014 8:50 pm

    “This attorney realized there’s a market to bring these lawsuits against cities and get attorney fees.”

    Not really… this attorney is doing it out of JUSTICE !!

  3. Janice Bellucci on July 31st, 2014 9:18 pm

    California RSOL applauds the City of Bell Gardens for ensuring that its laws are consistent with state law. If the City had not acted wisely, it would have been sued in federal district court. The wisdom of the Council keeps the City safe from a lawsuit and saves taxpayer funding.

  4. Valerie Parkhurst on August 1st, 2014 3:36 am

    The Mayor needs to “grow a pair” and realize its the “sex offender bottom feeding attorney Janice Bellucci” who is behind these suits. Cities need to stand up to this worthless broad and or parents should threaten a “class action suit” against their respective cities and watch the war begin. Think about it, these spineless cities are randomly dissolving their footage restrictions under the BS guise of a lawsuit. Yet they have offered up no “stopgates” to ensure offenders do not loiter (which they will do by the way, Parks are feeding grounds for these freaks” ask the Mayor would you rather defend the ordinance, or pay damages after a child has been targeted?

  5. Hannah Grace on August 1st, 2014 6:52 pm

    Valerie Parkhurst – I totally disagree with your assessment of the situation. It is a proven fact that a child is in more danger of being molested by someone he/she knows. Sex offenders are the only class of criminal that is continually punished after completing the court ordered incarceration, parole/probation, and rehabilitation therapy. Do you know where the drug dealers, drunk drivers, and gang members reside in your community? Children are more likely to be injured by one of those criminals. You need to be educated and not let yourself be coerced into believing the myths surrounding sex offenders. Until then kindly refrain from spouting your hateful comments to the public.

  6. Joe Low on August 1st, 2014 7:31 pm

    “Parks are feeding grounds for these freaks””

    Name 1 time when a child was harm at a park by a umm what you call them oh yes a “FREAK”
    answer is
    NONE!!

    Valerie Parkhurst, I just gave you a THUMB DOWN on your comment.

    Come on Val, you can do much better than this.!!!

  7. Arianna on August 1st, 2014 7:54 pm

    I’m glad someone’s stepping up to fight these unconstitutional and unproven restrictions.

  8. Jean on August 1st, 2014 8:00 pm

    “They have offered up no ‘stop gates’ to ensure offenders do not loiter (which they do by the way), parks are feeding grounds for these freaks”…

    How many reports of abuse have you heard of a sex offender loitered in a park and molested a child? Because the CASOMB has even stated that victims are more likely to be abused in their home or in the home of a close friend or family member! And that residency restrictions and presence restrictions actually make communities LESS SAFE.

  9. Sandy Rozek on August 2nd, 2014 5:04 am

    Every law passed should be supported by facts. Not only do residency restriction ordinances fail that test, but they also, in many cases including this one, run contrary to their own state laws. In taking this action, Bell Gardens is acting in accordance with the law and doing what evidence tells us will work toward a safer society.

  10. Marlayne Madison on August 2nd, 2014 3:48 pm

    There should be absolutely NO restrictions for anyone that has paid their debt to society. They should be able to go anywhere they want, get a job, a place to live and have no bias and persecution laws setup against them to succeed.

    The counsel should do this because it is right and not because of a lawsuit. Registration laws are wrong and against several basic protections under the Bill of Rights. We do not have a Constitution and as they the breakdown of society spreads and more and more people are caught in this very evil mind set they will find themselves sucked up into it also and then it will be too late to make any changes to correct this requirement. The registration is double jeopardy.

  11. Robert Curtis on August 2nd, 2014 10:56 pm

    Which is more likely to happen: a registrant’s child gets injured in a park without their parent being there as their first line of safety or a child getting abducted by a registered sex offender? Kids have often got hurt in parks either from falling from a tree, choking on a hot-dog and etc. Kids don’t pay attention and get hurt…they’re kids for Pete’s sake! Are you sure it is wise to disallow any parent to be with their child in public places like parks? Really? Where are we in pre-1945 Germany? If there was a history of registrants attacking children in parks I would understand these laws, but with the recidivism rates being so low 1.8% I wonder why we even have a registry. Oh, that’s right to keep an evil list of our teens that have consensual sex and do things like sexting and mooning their friends. We need to ditch most of these BS laws and let people live their lives. TRUTH

  12. Sandy Rozek on August 3rd, 2014 4:41 am

    Why is my comment still pending?

  13. Editor on August 4th, 2014 9:33 am

    Delays this weekend caused by some upgrades to our website.

  14. W.C. on August 4th, 2014 9:08 pm

    I think it’s past time for these draconian laws to be abandoned. As was stated in earlier posts, it’s not stranger danger, but someone who has manipulated him/herself into the victim’s inner circle of trust. Too many look to the perimeter for the threat in stead of looking closer to ground zero.

    No other class of criminal has where they can and can’t live, work, and recreate dictated by the state in the way sex offenders do.

    Why aren’t drug dealers who deal in a school zone not subjected to a public registry that includes residential, employment, and association restrictions?
    Why aren’t bank robbers prevented from living within 1,000 feet of a bank?

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