« Upcoming symposium at Gerogetown on "Reducing Corporate Criminality" | Main | Fascinating fight over death penalty realities and clemency rights gets to Oregon Supreme Court »

March 10, 2013

"Neighborhoods Seek to Banish Sex Offenders by Building Parks"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable new article in today's New York Times.  Here are snippets:

Parents who pick up their children at the bus stop in this city’s Harbor Gateway neighborhood say they often see men wearing GPS ankle bracelets and tell their children to stay away.  Just up the street, 30 paroled sex offenders live in a single apartment building, including rapists and child molesters. More than 100 registered sex offenders live within a few miles.

So local residents and city officials developed a plan to force convicted sex offenders to leave their neighborhood: open a tiny park.

Parents here, where state law prohibits registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or a public park, are not the only ones seizing on this approach. From the metropolis of Miami to the small town of Sapulpa, Okla., communities are building pocket parks, sometimes so small that they have barely enough room for a swing set, to drive out sex offenders.  One playground installation company in Houston has even advertised its services to homeowners associations as an option for keeping sex offenders away.

Within the next several months, one of Los Angeles’s smallest parks will open here in Harbor Gateway, on a patch of grass less than 1,000 square feet at the corner of a busy intersection.  But even if no child ever uses its jungle gym, the park will serve its intended purpose.  “Regardless of whether it’s the largest park or the smallest, we’re putting in a park to send a message that we don’t want a high concentration of sex offenders in this community,” said Joe Buscaino, a former Los Angeles police officer who now represents the area on the City Council.

While the pocket parks springing up around the country offer a sense of security to residents, they will probably leave more convicted sex offenders homeless. And research shows that once sex offenders lose stable housing, they become not only harder to track but also more likely to commit another crime, according to state officials involved with managing such offenders.

“Putting in parks doesn’t just break up clusters — it makes it impossible for sex offenders to find housing in the whole city,” said Janet Neeley, a member of the California Sex Offender Management Board.  “It’s counterproductive to public safety, because when you have nothing to lose, you are much more likely to commit a crime than when you are rebuilding your life.”

Restrictions on where sex offenders can live, which have been passed in most states, have already rendered most residential areas in many cities off limits.   The number of homeless sex offenders in California has increased threefold since 2006, when the latest residency restrictions were passed, and a third of sex offenders on parole are now homeless, according to reports from the Sex Offender Management Board....

Mr. Buscaino said he supported housing for sex offenders, but said the pocket park would improve the quality of life in Harbor Gateway. “Let’s house them, absolutely, but not in a high-population area like this one,” he said.

Many of the sex offenders who live near Harbor Gateway have been placed there with the help of parole officers, precisely so they would not end up on the street.  The landlord of some nearby apartments where dozens of sex offenders on parole live, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, said that keeping paroled sex offenders together in transitional housing actually kept the community safer because it places controls on them even after they leave prison....

In some urban areas, however, there is already nowhere left for sex offenders to legally live.  In Miami, dozens of convicted sex offenders camped under a bridge, unable to find any other shelter, until the encampment was broken up several years ago.  Another camp in Miami, where a dozen offenders slept on the sidewalk, was dispersed last year when Marc Sarnoff, a city commissioner, had three pocket parks built in the neighborhood.

Mr. Sarnoff said he did not know where the offenders ended up.  “There has to be a strategy in place so they don’t just live on the sidewalk,” Mr. Sarnoff said.  “We need more resources in place so these guys don’t reoffend. But that’s beyond the city’s resources.  It has to be at the state level.”

March 10, 2013 at 12:21 PM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451574769e2017c37819c6f970b

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference "Neighborhoods Seek to Banish Sex Offenders by Building Parks":

Comments

This is happening in my neck of the woods. Be assured Janice Bellucci, head of California Reform Sex Offender Laws (carsol.org), has already canvassed the area and has contacted several potential clients, and she WILL be filing this in federal court. I'm even working on providing her office space in the Harbor Gateway area for this purpose.

Janice Bellucci has been filing several cases in federal court with regard to constitutional violations, particularly of municipalities like Cypress or Lancaster in enacting limitations against registered sex offenders, and has been the main proponent in providing testimony against Orange County municipalities from enforcing park bans, and has followed suit by filing federal cases against the munis after they went ahead and enacted their ordinances.

But the LA parks are unique in that they are being built for the ostensible purpose of kicking out registered sex offenders. Obviously, this law has to be fought at SOME point, because if a suit didn't happen, then all ANY community would have to do is to build a "pocket park" every 2,000 feet, and that would effectively negate the RSO's from those communities. If EVERY community did that, then the RSO's would have no legal place to reside. Even rural areas can use this method with very little cost.

So better to fight the law now, and bring an end to this nonsense. Once residency restrictions are declared unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court at some point, states and municipalities will have to deal with effective programs, not this state-sanctioned witch hunt. "Icky Pervs" notwithstanding, this is really a no-brainer.

(I also have a concern: A "pocket park" in an urban location will only create an area where REAL crime can take place, like drug deals, assaults, and even murder. This is one aspect that will be presented in court as I am currently conducting the research for Janice on the amount of crime that that occurs in EXISTING parks of this nature. Quite a bit of it in LA, unfortunately.)

Posted by: Eric Knight | Mar 10, 2013 2:27:34 PM

I work as a reader/writer at a local community college.

The author correctly pointed out that by forcing ex-convict sex offenders to constantly move from one place to another not only destroys the stability essential to keep them from re-offending, but actually gives such offenders nothing to lose anymore by defying their parole rules. It might even entice some sex offenders to retaliate against such laws by vandalizing the parks that were built to force their removal, to threaten police and parole officers assigned to enforce the new restrictions. It might even cause some former sex offenders to go off the deap end by targeting their landlords who enforce this law by vandalizing the landlord's proterties, by stealing apartment furniture, by stealing apartment fixtures like copper plumbing pipes to illegally sell on the black market, or by resorting to other anti-social activity.

This new restriction will endanger public safety instead of insuring it.

Posted by: william r. delzell | Mar 10, 2013 3:49:37 PM

Obviously these communities are trying to compensate for the poor performance of the criminal justice system with respect to risk control and reduction. Surely we can do better.

Posted by: Tom McGee | Mar 10, 2013 4:59:51 PM

I am no fan of sex offenders--but they gotta live somewhere.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 10, 2013 7:35:49 PM

No person has a right to raise a child in a safe society. Such a right is impossible because perfect security is impossible. So all this boils down to is sexual offender NIMBYism. Banishment.

The irony of this approach is that it is the opposite of insurance; it concentrates risk rather than distributes it. It is an odd kind of blindness. "I don't care if my behavior makes my life more dangerous so long as that danger is lurking around the corner and I can't see it."

Posted by: Daniel | Mar 10, 2013 7:47:01 PM

What is the proof that these residency restrictions make it safer in the specific areas sought to be protected?

Posted by: ? | Mar 10, 2013 8:21:42 PM

These laws definitely do nothing for public safety and they do NOT protect children from sexual abuse. Many studies, including one from the DOJ, show that re-offense by a sex offender is around 5% and the most recent studies in several states are approaching 1%. The data also shows that 96% of child sex abuse is at the hands of a first time offender (not on the registry)who is a family member or a trust family acquaintance, not the boogey man hiding in the parks behind some bush (remember Sandusky?). Even the FBI says that there is less than a 1% chance that your child will be abducted and assaulted by a stranger. When are the politicians going to start using empirical data to make laws instead of fear mongering antics?

Posted by: Jill | Mar 10, 2013 9:19:22 PM

"When are the politicians going to start using empirical data to make laws instead of fear mongering antics?"

When voters aren't swayed by emotional arguments. I can't begin to tell you how many politicians have told me that they agree that the laws are unconstitutional, or in some cases unenforceable, but if they DIDN'T vote for the restriction/punishment/whatever, then they would be lamblasted in the polls and certainly lose their next election. The only time politicians can actually come out in support of certain issues is when they have an insurmountable advantage in their districts.

The actual answer to this madness is through federal litigation, as even state judges have fallen into the political morass of emotional poppycock.

Posted by: Eric Knight | Mar 10, 2013 10:41:02 PM

Your wrong about this Eric!

"So better to fight the law now, and bring an end to this nonsense"

Personaly i think what should have happened the FIRST time this was tried.

The park should have been burnt to the ground with the govt fucktard who ordered it!

Tied up in the fucking middle!

This is nothing but a deliberate violation of the Constutional Rights of those Americans on the illegal registry!

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 10, 2013 11:47:23 PM

I live in a lawyer residential area. Two sex offenders work there, go elsewhere at night. In a nearby area? 68 live there. One big problem for the kids in my area? Their dads are lawyers and traitors to this country.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 11, 2013 4:36:28 AM

Jill, your numbers are not correct. Studies put sexual offender recidivism at between 20 and 50 percent. The most recent study puts it at 30%
http://www.ussc.gov/Legislative_and_Public_Affairs/Congressional_Testimony_and_Reports/Sex_Offense_Topics/201212_Federal_Child_Pornography_Offenses/index.cfm

Please cite a study where the number is 1%!!!

Posted by: Kelly | Mar 11, 2013 9:55:54 AM

Kelly -- That 30% recidivism rate was calculated using a broad methodology -- they lumped arrests for non-sexual offenses and technical parole violations in to the calculation. Looking at the data, the sexual recidivism was 7.4%.

And just generally, It's ironic to me that the residency restrictions themselves are the mechanism that cause this clumping that's gotten residents so worked up in the first place. If you're worried about a bunch of offenders living together, then get rid of residency restrictions. They're not living together because they're plotting some grand conspiracy -- it's because they have no place else to live. Many communities have already done away with residency restrictions and they don't have sex offenders grabbing children up off the sidewalks. Mostly that's because residency restrictions represent a deeply flawed understand of how sexual violence occurs, but I think human history is replete with examples of where critical thought and evidence is trumped by fear and irrationality.

Posted by: Guy | Mar 11, 2013 11:08:18 AM

@Kelly
Your report shows a 30% rate for 'Technical Violations' for a parolee or probationer. That could mean they had a picture of their children or possibly an 'R' rated movie in Their possession depending on the conditions of their parole. Your example does show a 7% arrest rate for a new sex related crime, but does not mention the conviction rate.

Posted by: mike | Mar 11, 2013 11:13:03 AM

Kelly:

Quit misleading the discussion on this topic. The study you profess to use as a quote for 30% recidivism does NO such thing. It is a report to Congress that poorly attempts to distinguish different types of Child Pornographers (manufacture, receipt, possession, distribution and those who could be classified as CSDB (Criminally Sexually Dangerous Behavior). The statistics are rather poor and ill-defined (what do you expect from the gubermint). Pleas SHOW ME (Chapter and Page) where it says 30% for General Recidivism of All those currently classified as Sex Offenders.

The practice described in the post is frightening to any liberty loving American, but that's what you get when 9 mostly ex-AUSAs dressed in black pajamas say that the SO Registry is non-punative. There is no fear of disinformation spreading by our elected officials, absolutely none. Even Justice Kennedy misused statistics to half-assedly defend his decision in Doe vs. Miller.

Posted by: albeed | Mar 11, 2013 11:16:51 AM

Societies that hold to democratic values don't "register" people on political persecution lists like the Sex Offender Registry. The only beneficiaries are the elected official using the topic as a career builder. The sex offender registry is a complete and utter fraud costing the tax payer hundreds of millions per year. 97% of sex crimes are commmitted by people NOT on the registry. It is the people you trust whom you need to watch out for.

Posted by: sails3 | Mar 11, 2013 11:29:04 AM

I disagree with the downplaying the USSC's study! According to the report, they only counted it as a recidivist event if they were arrested for another sexual offense, or were violated due to another sexual offense. So if they pissed dirty or even failure to register as a sex offender, it wouldn't have counted as a recidivist act. As we all know, and the Department of Justice pointed out, sexual crimes are the hardest to detect, so even the 30% number can be considered low. Also, the Commission only used a two year follow up period, which is not long for this type of research.

Yes, it was 7.4% CONVICTION rate, but no credible study uses conviction rate as an indicator of recidivism.

So, to discredit this study by what you believe to be faulty research without concrete examples is faulty as well.

Posted by: Kelly | Mar 11, 2013 12:37:51 PM

It is silly to claim that recidivism studies are inadequate because CP offenses are underreported. CP offenses are among the most detectable of all crimes. Most users are unsophisticated, and leave clear computer traces. Indeed, it is very, very difficult not to get caught if one is using his own computer or a computer in a place one frequents. And that is precisely where most of the offenders are accessing these images from (remember, privacy is key). DOJ's claim in this regard is completely baseless. Of course, no recidivism study is perfect.

Posted by: Subethis | Mar 11, 2013 3:09:13 PM

It is reprehensible when anyone like Kelly skews statistics one way or the other, including throwing in suppositions and urban mythology in coming up with some creative numbers. Sadly, politicos do it all too often because they know many people have the emotional componentry as displayed by Kelly, but when the damage is done there are far more problems than actual solutions. To that end, we must stop the hyperbole of spewing stats unless they come from reputable, concrete sources.

The comprehensive California 2012 Outcome Evaluation Report conducted by the California Department of Corrections has further delineated recidivism rates for all sex offenders. The rates are as follows:

RSO's committing new sex crime: 1.9%
RSO's committing REGISTRY-related crimes (which are not criminal ordinances against non-registrants): 3.5%

The above rates have always been calculated together for "sex-related" crimes for the traditional 5.3% that is reported, when in reality 2/3 of the new crimes do not constitute a new SEX crime.

It must be noted that an additional 7.8% of RS0's commit a non-sex crime, non-registry related crime. However, this category would necessarily have to coincide with other offenders and not be part of the equation in which the registry has been "justified," i.e, for preventing offenses against children. Even then, the cumulative 13% is well below any other criminal recidivists except for murder, whose offenders generally are in prison for far longer than any other offense.

In short: Less than 1 in 50 registrants commit another sex crime of ANY type. However, 2 in 50 commit a registry violation that has absolutely nothing to do with another sex crime, or any crime for that matter. To that end, is this what the registry is supposed to accomplish, let alone the myriad of restrictions that culminates in a city councilman subverting loopholes to restrict individuals?

Now individuals who have opinions similar to those that have been consistently expressed by frequent commenters such as Bill Otis or Supremacy Clause (whom I agree with more often than not) may have counter-arguments stating that the crimes some of these offenders committed deserve lifetime incarceration, either criminally or civil, but since they are out, then need to be controlled. But that is not the point because sanctions and sentences are entirely within the realm of constitutional authority. In addition, this is not about those on probation or parole, of whom the court has constitutional jurisdiction over convicted individuals. That is not the debate. The bottom line: If poor sentencing was the reason to justify registries as well as their ensuing conditions, then the justification for the registry itself fails the constitutional smell test.

The report is located at http://bit.ly/Sejiwh, with the pertinent information located on page 30.

Posted by: Eric Knight | Mar 11, 2013 4:23:15 PM

how true. sorry kelly but we are not the retards our govt and media are.

It's not rocket science we have a list of almost 1,000,000 people. It's not hard to look at the damn thing and see who's there for multiple crimes.

take your drivel somewhere it might be welcome. try congress!

A fine bunch of govt fucktards there! They will eat it up. After all they have been now for almost 20 years.

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 11, 2013 5:47:49 PM

Kelly (Mar 11, 2013 12:37:51 PM):

You said "so even the 30% number can be considered low". So you think there are Registered people who are committing sex crimes and nobody is really paying attention? Is that what you are saying? Registered people are just going wild, getting away with sex crimes all over the place? Most sex crimes (especially the child molestation crimes that are the "justification" for all the witch hunt stupidity) are committed by people who are known to the victim. For people who are Registered, the percentage of those that are reported is much, much higher than 30%, it is more likely 120% (yes, I'm including false accusations).

Of the 7.4% convicted, what percentage do you think actually committed a crime? I guess 1%. Maybe.

Further, I don't give a rat's ass if the recidivism rate is 90%. The criminal governments have made it so I don't care. Whatever the number, it doesn't have a thing to do with me so un-Americans need to understand that they need to stop harassing me or I'm going to F them up. I am going to lower the quality of their lives in very tangible ways. It is that simple.

I am following all the BS laws but I completely believe that un-Americans who do the BS like these cities have done deserve to die violent, quick deaths. They are not committing a crime against a few people, they are committing crimes against at least tens or hundreds of thousands of people. The total damage done is equal to the damage done multiplied by the number of people it is done to and at some point, the criminal legislators deserve death.

Posted by: FRegistryTerrorists | Mar 11, 2013 6:49:41 PM

Private little parks for protection?
From who?
Many of those on the ridiculous Sex Offender Registry have never even had contact with children, they are knuckleheads that got caught up in looking at adult porn, made a few wrong mouse clicks and ended up in some child porn sharefile that they knew nothing about. These poor guys may have let their curiosity get the better of them, they are guilty of "looking" at something, sometimes, just once. Now their lives and their families lives are destroyed, and when they get out of prison after their ridiculously long mandatory sentence, they have no place they can live and no life. Yet, they've never had physical or verbal contact with a kid.
Time for the world to wake up and stop the witch-hunt because they have no idea what they are doing to innocent people who are guilty of nothing more than a one-time poor judgement call. And who of us isn't guilty of that?

Posted by: kat | Mar 12, 2013 10:36:48 AM

When you obtain a client look at Pollard v. State, 908 NE2d 1145 (2009). The Indiana Supreme Court found residency restrictions to violate the ex post facto clause. They also discuss the impropriety of not allowing someone to live in their property. Although the restrictions do not prevent ownership, they prevent the use and enjoyment of the property and place them in fear of future eviction if a park or school is constructed in the future.

See also, Hevner v. State, 919 NE2d 109. The Indiana Supreme Court affirming the Pollard decision and reasoning, however holding that a residency restriction (although not subject to criminal prosecution) could validly be ordered as a condition of probation

Posted by: Bryan Truitt | Mar 12, 2013 12:26:24 PM

I have been fighting an anti-clustering law proposed in Alabama, HB 85, in which registrants cannot live within 500 feet... of each other! Plus one registrant per apartment complex. While there will be provisions made for "approved halfway houses", the state has no procedure to approve them as one of only seven states that offer NO treatment to registrants!

Posted by: oncefallendotcom | Mar 12, 2013 10:47:33 PM

oncefallendotcom (Mar 12, 2013 10:47:33 PM):

These criminal regimes have grown far out of control and it is clearly far past time that serious war needs to be waged. The "people" behind these laws are immoral scum who are not Americans. They should be attacked by any means that is legal. EVERYONE who is listed on a nanny government Registry needs to wage war. Along with their families, friends, and all other Americans.

Also, people who are listed on a Registry have no need for "treatment", especially of the sort administered by the criminal regimes where "treatment" is nothing more than an extension of their probation/parole departments. They have also rendered that "treatment" COMPLETELY useless with their Registries and the rest of the Panacea Stupidity. I have no idea why anyone would think "treatment" would be useful when you are telling a person that he/she cannot live within 500 feet of another person "like" him/her. They should take their "treatment" and shove it up their immoral asses. I also don't understand why people seem to think that people who commit sex crimes need "treatment" any more than anyone else who commits any other type of crime. It's just weird, witch hunt BS, as usual.

Posted by: FRegistryTerrorists | Mar 13, 2013 9:33:06 AM

only one problem with this FR!

"They should be attacked by any means that is legal"

If we take the govt's position that america has the legal right to attack anyone who just Might be a threat. Then legally these individuals have the legal right to attack any govt offical who just Might be a threat to there life down the road.

Govt can't have it both ways. If they can target and attack a possible future threat. So can these individuals since last time i looked the govt get's it autority and power from US. Therefore if they have it...So do WE!

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 14, 2013 10:03:00 AM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB