Los Angeles News

'Pocket parks' leave sex offenders questioning where to live

Friday, March 15, 2013

"John," who doesn't want to be identified, is a registered sex offender on parole, and he'll likely be moving again once a sliver of land in Harbor Gateway is transformed into the city's first pocket park.

"This is the first place I found that I actually could stay, but I've had to move a few times before because it was just where I can't live," said John.

The move could force out the high number of registered sex offenders living in the area since Jessica's Law restricts them from living within 2,000 feet of park, school or daycare.

Sex offender advocates say the high concentration of sex offenders -- more than 130 at its peak in the 13-block neighborhood -- is the direct result of the law, since it makes housing so limited.

Shana Rowan of USA Families Advocating an Intelligent Registry says it's actually putting the public at risk.

"The isolating factor might feel good, but in the end it detaches the offender from the community and makes it more likely that they will re-offend," she said.

She says research has shown residency restrictions do not reduce the recidivism rate, which is already very low at just over 3 percent, according the California Department of Corrections.

"They're going to end up in somebody else's community, and eventually it's going to be problem there, and if we continue to refuse to look at the facts and start integrating them into our policies, this is just going to be a never ending problem," she said.

As housing options shrink, advocates say more offenders are ending up on the streets where supervision is difficult. Even John admits in the end, where offenders live doesn't really matter.

"It is very difficult to find a place to live. Most of us want to live in our own homes, most of us can't even live in our own homes because of these damn restrictions. If we really wanted to do something we'd do it," he said.

At this point it is unclear if the sex offenders in the area will be forced to move or not since an L.A. judge has ruled the park restriction of the law unconstitutional.

(Copyright ©2014 KABC-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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