LA Times – On a tiny sliver of land in Harbor Gateway, the city is beginning construction on what officials believe will be the smallest park in Los Angeles.
At one-fifth of an acre, the pocket park will barely have room for two jungle gyms, some benches and a brick wall.
But the enjoyment the park will give children is a secondary concern for officials. They are building the park for a different reason: to force 33 registered sex offenders to move out of a nearby apartment building.
State law prohibits sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a park or school. By building the park, officials said, they would effectively force the sex offenders to leave the neighborhood. This section of Harbor Gateway has one of the city’s highest concentrations of registered sex offenders: 86 live in a 13-block area.
Los Angeles plans to build a total of three pocket parks with the intent of driving out registered sex offenders; two will be in Wilmington.
The action marks the latest campaign by local governments to drive sex offenders farther into the fringes of society. The state law already bans offenders from living in huge swaths of urban areas, pushing them into industrial districts and remote towns and into neighborhoods like Harbor Gateway that lack schools and parks.
Communities in Orange County have passed laws barring sex offenders from county parks and beaches. There is a new push at Los Angeles City Hall to ban offenders from living near day-care centers and locations that house after-school programs.
Backers of the park plan say it’s a novel way to move out offenders while providing more recreation space.
“I want to do everything in my power to keep child sex offenders away from children,” said City Councilman Joe Buscaino, who represents the 15th District, which includes Wilmington and Harbor Gateway. “We have to look at some solutions and in comes the pocket park idea.”
The effort, however, has others questioning whether these restrictions make communities safer and whether they infringe on the rights of offenders.
A California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation study released in October showed that about 2% of convicted sex offenders are sent back to prison on a new sex-abuse offense. The study covered data from 2008.
“People are running around with hysteria when they don’t know the facts,” said Janice Bellucci, president of California Reform Sex Offender Laws, a nonprofit organization that advocates for the rights of those convicted of sex crimes. “I understand that sex offenders are not a popular part of society, but they have constitutional rights.” Full Article