Sex-Offender Encampment in Anaheim, CA

May 7, 2010

latimes.com:California parole agency breaks up sex-offender encampment in Anaheim.

On Wednesday, officials with the Parole Department relocated 30 to 40 paroled offenders who had been living in cars and RVs outside its office on Coronado Street, police say. In Orange County, where more than a third of the paroled sex offenders are homeless, police estimated that 30 or 40 had taken to camping on the streets in this industrial stretch.

The situation stems from Jessica’s Law, the 2006 statute that forbids sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools, parks or other places where children gather, severely limiting lodging options in densely populated cities. “These people have difficulty finding residence, so they make do,” said Anaheim police Lt. Julian Harvey.

The sex offenders are required to meet regularly with their parole officers, and those without a power source use the office to charge up the electronic ankle bracelets that monitor their whereabouts.

After media inquiries and business complaints, however, the state Parole Department cleared the block Wednesday night, moving the sex offenders to another location. Anaheim police Sgt. Tim Schmidt said the parole agency did not inform the Anaheim police where the offenders had been relocated.

On Wednesday afternoon, hours before the streets were cleared, a convicted 41-year-old child molester was sitting near the parole office in his vehicle, his belongings filling the back seat. He said he lost his lodging nearby after a Boys & Girls Club moved in down the block, putting him in violation of Jessica’s Law. After four years in prison, he said he has been living in his vehicle for months and that nobody has hassled him.

The California Department of Corrections, which runs the Parole Department, “has been very good to us,” he said. “They know we can’t go anywhere.” He said the sex offenders who camped there did not associate with each other because the law forbade it. He said he felt a measure of protection living near the parole office.

“All of us are safer than in the streets,” he said. Still, he did not want to be identified for fear of retaliation. He said he had heard a rumor that there might be a drive-by shooting targeting the campers.

According to the Parole Department, California has about 8,580 registered sex offenders on parole, about 2,000 of whom are classified as transient. Of Orange County’s 302 registered sex offenders on parole, 119 are transient, and in Los Angeles County, the homeless represent 421 of 1,896 offenders.

“The bottom line is, they’re going to be in the city some place,” Kenneth Ford, the Parole Department’s chief deputy regional administrator, said in an interview earlier this week. “We’re trying to make them be compliant with the law. You’re not going to find a lot of compliant housing for them.”

People just don’t seem to understand this. If you displace a population of people from legally living in nearly any area of decent housing, they still will live somewhere. These laws only serve to force them to congregate in clusters, into areas which are of lower socio-economic status which only increases the likelihood of desperation and recidivism

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