The City Council of Grover Beach, in a vote of 5 to 0, voted on September 8 to repeal a city ordinance that prohibited California sex offenders (“registrants”) from living within 2,000 feet of any school, park, or day care center. The action follows a lawsuit filed on June 17 by California Reform Sex Offender Laws President and attorney Janice Bellucci on behalf of registrant Frank Lindsay who has resided in Grover Beach for 18 years.
“This decision is important because it recognizes that residency restrictions do not increase public safety, but instead decreases it,” stated Bellucci.
According to the lawsuit, the residency restrictions effectively “banished” registrants from moving to Grover Beach or from relocating to a new residence within the city in violation of the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments, the Ex Post Facto Clause of the United States Constitution. The filing followed a recent California Supreme Court decision that repealed similar restrictions in the County of San Diego (Taylor, 60 Cal. 4th 1019, 1042).
The Grover Beach City Council admitted that they “are not thrilled” to repeal the restrictions but maintained that the city will continue to follow state law regarding registry requirements. A law enforcement representative at the Grover Beach City Council meeting on September 8 assured that his department will “remain vigilant” to guarantee compliance by registered citizens.
A recent report issued by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation found that less than one percent of registrants on parole re-offend regardless of where they reside. A California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) report issued in April 2015 cites Dr. Karl Hanson, the preeminent researcher of sex offenses, stating that a registrant who has remained offense-free 17 years is no more likely to commit a new offense than someone who has never been convicted of a sex offense. Plaintiff Lindsay has remained offense-free for 36 years.
An additional CASOMB report, issued in August 2011, determined homeless registrants pose a greater risk and utilize more law enforcement resources than registrants with residences and employment.
Subsequent to the Supreme Court’s decision, the County of Riverside and Cities of Downey and El Monte have begun the repeal of their residency restrictions. Lawsuits are currently pending in the Cities of Arcadia and Cypress with additional lawsuits expected to be filed soon in additional cities and counties throughout the State.