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CT: New animation illustrates the real size of Sentencing Enhancement Zones

One of the worst ideas to come out of the War on Drugs is sentencing enhancement zones. These laws mandate a higher penalty for crimes committed within a certain distance of schools. The intent is noble, but at huge distances like 1,500 feet, the laws are actually harmful. Full Article

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I like those maps with all the circles overlapping, pretty much making whole cities exclusion zones, and this is only 1500 feet. Make it 2000 feet and you pretty much cover anything. At least with the drug zone you have to commit a crime in one to get the prison term. For our Jessica’s Law zine, you just have to live in one to be punished.
I am wondering if there is a way to pull up all the schools and parks in an area using Google Earth and then draw 2000 foot circles around them. Would be a great visual aid to bring to the Senate Public Safety Committee. Hartford Connecticut I imagine has about the same density of schools as say San Diego or Los Angeles or any other urban area in California.

I wrote such a toolkit based on Google maps.. measuring based on property lines. I gave up because I was the only one that seemed interested in a tool like this. I need help to better plan next version based on newer technologies as well as automating generating a list of areas not limited. Plug an address in and it will tell you if it’s inside or outside zones, paired with data layers customizable for distance, restricted zones etc. Also, because I would make no money on this… it’s been on back burner.

Maybe I need to revisit this.

Well I am interested because I have a B.A. in Geography. I studied just as computers were being introduced into cartography. I haven’t learn Google Earth, beyond using it to draw property lines for landscape plans. The potential for using Google maps to show the impact of residency restriction is large. It says more than pages and pages or minutes and minutes of words, how restrictive this law is.
If I had such maps of the major urban areas in California, I would feel comfortable standing before the Senate Public Safety Committee to present to them. I wish I had the money to pay you for them, but my personal coffers are low now.

Does the property line end at..

a) the sidewalk
b) in the middle of the public road in front of your property. I’ve read this.


I’m glad you like those maps. And yes, 2,000 feet is significantly worse than 1,500. Because of pi r squared (the formula for a circle) It actually covers 1.77 times as much area to have 2,000 foot zones.

If you do this kind of map though, don’t forget that these zones are typically measured from the property line and not some random central point at the school or park. The resulting exclusion zones won’t be exact circles, and they will be significantly larger than a circle with a 2,000 foot radius. (I sometimes see maps made by the police or other officials that show circles when the actual area that the police enforce is much larger; so these differences matter.)

That said, once the zones start to overlap it doesn’t matter much whether you draw them to their full extent….

Yes, you would have to measure from the perimeter. For example, Balboa Park in San Diego, is about 1.4 miles square. A 2000 foot circle drawn in the center of the park wouldn’t even cross the boundaries of the park. No problem, the buffer around the park is a huge area, and there are plenty of schools around the park and small, neighborhood parks. I was wondering what was so magic about 2000 feet. One can test this, but I am thinking it has to do with population. There has to be a certain population of children around a school for it to exist, and that is determined by the residential area around the school. How many square miles does a school need to sign up enough students to justify its existence? A 2000 foot circle is about .45 square miles. It doesn’t sound like many children would live in .45 square miles, yet, when you add in the average number of parks in an urban area, you can cover the average modern city. Maybe 2000 foot was intentionally used to exclude registrants from cities. Apparently, in the more densely populated East coast, 1500 feet can cover an urban area,so that all drug crimes have enhanced sentences. 2000 feet in relatively sparser suburban California, is just far enough to overlap, but just short enough to “sound” like it isn’t a blanket ban. I wouldn’t rule out that this was all well thought out.

How much thought goes into these distances when the laws are being written really varies. Sadly, it seems to range between “no thought” and “we made one tweak when the first one didn’t look like banishment. That said, I don’t know California’s legislative history on this.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x