Group: Most of county’s sex offenders live in violation


More than 70 percent of the registered sex offenders in San Diego County are violating a state law by living too close to schools or parks, it was reported Sunday.

The Watchdog Institute, a nonprofit journalism group based at San Diego State University, analyzed 1,731 released offenders in San Diego County and found 1,266 of the addresses made public by the state are in restricted zones, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

Jessica’s Law, which was approved by California voters in November 2006, toughened sanctions against sex offenders and bars them living within 2,000 feet of a school or park.

The Union-Tribune reported that the law doesn’t specify whether residence restrictions apply to all convicted sex offenders or only to those who were convicted or paroled after it passed. There are no penalties for violating the restrictions.

“The initiative itself was so badly written, no one knows how retroactive it is,” Tom Tobin, a clinical psychologist and member of the state Sex Offender Management Board, told the Union-Tribune.

Four registered sex offenders, two of whom live in San Diego County, have challenged the residency restrictions, and their case is before the California Supreme Court. The court’s ruling is expected in February.

The Union-Tribune reported that dozens of municipalities across the state that have approved their own ordinances are awaiting the court’s decision before moving to enforce them. In San Diego County, six cities have enacted ordinances that restrict were convicted offenders can live or loiter: San Diego, Chula Vista, National City, La Mesa, Santee and San Marcos.

The county of San Diego and the Padre Municipal Water District - which oversees Santee Lakes - also have ordinances. Each makes a violation a misdemeanor.

Nearly all of those cities increased the number of restricted areas, barring convicted offenders from living or loitering near playgrounds, arcades, amusement parks and other places where children congregate, the Union-Tribune reported.

Still, since Jessica’s Law took effect, more registered sex offenders have identified themselves as transient and are harder to track, the Union- Tribune reported.

Among California parolees - the only population of sex offenders for whom the residence restrictions have been consistently enforced - the number listed as transient has gone from 88 in November 2006 to 1,056 in June 2008, an increase of 1,100 percent, according to a Sex Offender Management Board report in December 2008.

Tobin said sex offenders in unstable environment, such as homelessness, are more likely to commit another crime.

“Why would we want to, with no apparent good reason, increase the risk of re-offending,” Tobin asked the Union-Tribune. “The reality is that we’re pushing people to the brink.”

The Institute found that in San Diego, where more than one-third of the county’s convicted sex offenders list addresses, 85 percent are in violation of the state’s residence restrictions. The city ordinance adds further restrictions, barring registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of day-care centers, arcades, playgrounds, and libraries. It also bars them from loitering within 300 feet of those places.

The City, reported the Union-Tribune, hasn’t enforced its ordinance, passed in 2008, because of the pending case before the California Supreme Court. Officials in the City Attorney’s Office also wouldn’t discuss enforcement plans because the case isn’t resolved, city spokesperson Gina Coburn told the Union-Tribune.