Sex offenders who prey on children would be banned from Fountain Valley city parks under a measure that won tentative approval Tuesday night.
In a 4-0 vote, the City Council endorsed a law to make city-owned parks off-limits to anyone who is registered as a sex offender for crimes against a minor.
That distinction -- not including sex offenders who target adults -- drew criticism from the Orange County district attorney's office, which said Fountain Valley's measure would clash with a similar county law. The county law, which only affects county-owned parks, bans all sex offenders unless they get a waiver from the sheriff.
Noting that Fountain Valley has both county- and city-owned parks, District Attorney Chief of Staff Susan Kang Schroeder predicted confusion. Fountain Valley's measure "would make it an inconsistent situation, where somebody who is convicted of child pornography could not go into Mile Square Park, but they could go into a Fountain Valley Park,” she said.
But Mayor John Collins backed the measure as is, saying “the most egregious" perpetrators are those who target children. “I think it’s really important to keep people … who abuse children away from kids as much as we can,” Collins said.
If the measure wins final approval at the next City Council meeting, violations would be a misdemeanor, punishable with a maximum of six months in jail and/or $1,000 fine, according to the city code.
Police Chief Daniel Llorens said, “We don’t have a history of sex offenders in our parks, but it certainly gives us something to use if we ever have an incident."
Another difference between the city and county measures is that Fountain Valley would allow no waivers from its top law enforcement officer.
According to a city staff report, “Llorens has indicated that he does not want the discretion to make waivers as he does not want his decision to be the cause of harm to a child.”
Officials put the item on the agenda after a study session on the topic in April, and after Orange County District Attorney Tony Rauckauckas recommended all cities adopt legislation to keep sex offenders away from parks. A number of cities have passed such laws.