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D.A. urges Irvine City Council on sex offender ban

Council members have more questions about possible municipal ordinance that would keep sex offenders away from city parks, playgrounds.

May 14, 2011|By Alexandra Baird, dailypilot@latimes.com

Editor's note: This corrects who from the district attorney's office was set to show up to Huntington Beach's City Council meeting Monday.

Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas came to Irvine last week to urge the City Council to consider a municipal ordinance modeled on the county's new ban on sex offenders at county recreational sites.

Irvine is one of the first cities in the county to consider such a ban at the municipal level. On Monday, a D.A. representative is to make a similar appearance before the Huntington Beach City Council.

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Irvine Councilman Jeff Lalloway introduced a proposal at Tuesday's session recommending that the council adopt an ordinance banning sex offenders from city parks and playgrounds. But Mayor Pro Tem Beth Krom and Councilman Larry Agran said they had questions that needed to be answered first.

The council voted unanimously on a motion to city staff to draft an ordinance and bring it back for further discussion and a vote within 45 days.

Krom wanted more time to gather information.

"We felt it was the responsible thing to do to request more information from public safety before we take any action on it," she said Friday.

"The questions that I think need to be answered are whether … existing tools that public safety has are inadequate," she added. "There are questions that get raised in association with any type of restriction with respect to people's rights under the law."

Krom gave the example of a 20-year-old who's been convicted of statutory rape for having consensual sex with a 17-year-old partner. Krom questioned whether the ban was appropriate for such people.

In a Friday interview, Lalloway said that exemptions in a city ordinance could address such concerns.

"Protecting the children of Irvine and my two little girls is extremely important to me," Lalloway said. "I don't believe this statute goes too far in doing that."

On April 5, the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an ordinance that requires registered sex offenders to obtain written permission from the Sherriff's Department before visiting county recreational areas, defined as places where children routinely gather.

The ordinance went into effect May 5 and covers county parks as well as places like the Orange County Zoo and Newport Harbor.

Rackauckas attended Tuesday's council meeting, where he said that the new ordinance addresses a "gap in the law."

"We have heard complaints from time to time about people hanging out in parks, sitting at a bench watching the kids, and nobody knows who they are," Rackauckas said. "The only way to do something is to give the police a tool to be able to keep sex offenders out of parks."

Irvine Police Chief David L. Maggard Jr. said the city has 45 registered sex offenders.

Of those, four are on parole and have ankle bracelets, and seven are on probation.

Maggard also said that in the last three years, there has been one sex-offender related arrest in a city park and one recorded situation that did not lead to an arrest.

Lalloway said that any measure that might prevent registered sex offenders from gaining access to children is worth implementing. He said the district attorney's urgency made him "sit up and take notice."

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