Orange County, Calif., is at the forefront of emerging legislation further restricting the movements of registered sex offenders. In conjunction with facing housing limitations, these men and women will no longer be allowed to enter public spaces frequented by children. Such designated “Child Safety Zones” include parks, beaches, and harbors, yet can extend to swimming pools, bus stops, and more depending on the city. As a deterrent, sex offenders could face severe penalties or jail time should they be identified within prohibited areas.
While these laws exist throughout the country, the New York Times notes that they first tend to spread to surrounding counties. For example, since the government of Orange County enacted its laws, 12 cities within it have created their own Child Safety Zone legislation as well as two other counties in California and one in Arizona. Some cities are even taking their restrictions further, such as Lake County, Fla., where sex offenders are not allowed within 300 feet of a park, school, or playground.
A noteworthy aspect of these laws is that all of them, with the exception of certain laws in Irvine, Calif., apply to all sex offenders regardless of the nature of their crimes. Therefore, a person convicted of indecent exposure from urinating in public as a youth would be treated the same as a predatory offender. Because of this, and the fact that laws are difficult to enforce, some law enforcement officials are questioning effectiveness.
For example in Albuquerque, N.M., police have never issued a trespass notice since banning sex offenders from libraries in 2008. And in Orange County, there have only been three convictions thus far.
In Orange County, sex offenders do have the option of applying for access to county parks. As of May 29 2012, 15 applications have been submitted; one was accepted.
To learn more about this subject, read the New York Times’ “Public-Place Laws Tighten Reign on Sex Offenders.”