Monday, October 31, 2011

Law Enforcement to Round Up Homeless Sex Offenders Tonight

Posted By on Mon, Oct 31, 2011 at 4:50 PM

click to enlarge Homeless Sex Offenders: smart on crime?
  • Homeless Sex Offenders: smart on crime?

​California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced trick-or-treaters will be safer since cops will keep homeless sex offender parolees indoors tonight in San Francisco. That announcement comes even while Harris' office is defending Jessica's Law -- the ballot initiative that pushed sex offenders into homelessness in the first place. 

Harris showed up to a press conference today  -- for about three minutes, and hustled out before questions were taken -- where she announced that 22 special agents from the state Department of Justice will be joining local law enforcement and state parole agents in Operation Boo. That means they will check to make sure sex offenders obey the state-mandated  house curfew tonight from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. Tuesday.

All the homeless sex offenders will have to report to a specific location starting at 5 p.m.  

Harris pulled out her hallmark "smart on crime" slogan to describe tonight's operation, saying it could help to prevent a crime before it happens. "This is about letting folks that have been proven to be a threat to their community, to let them know we'll be watching them, and we expect them to stay indoors and have no contact with the children of our community," she said. 

But how "smart on crime" is it to defend a law that forces sex offenders to live in the streets? 

Harris didn't mention that her office is defending the state's enforcement of Jessica's Law against more than 50 sex offenders in San Francisco. As we first reported on Friday, those sex offenders are challenging the 2006 law's residency restrictions which mandate sex offenders cannot live in residences 2,000 feet from a park or school. In compact San Francisco, the law has meant that the parolees can't live anywhere indoors at all, and have instead been living in vans, on a series of couches, or on the street. 

Currently, the state's parole department is the only agency enforcing the law on sex offender parolees -- only about 10 percent of the state's total 95,000 sex offenders. In today's press conference, state adult parole director Robert Ambroselli conceded that Jessica's Law makes it harder to track sex offenders, not easier. "Any time you have an offender who's transient, it becomes more challenging than if you know where that person is ... we don't really have an opinion on that, we're just enforcing the law." 

Yet Ambroselli sits on the California Sex Offender Management Board, which did have an opinion on Jessica's Law in a 2008 report, stating the resulting homeless sex offenders are more likely to commit another offense if they have a difficult time getting a job or connecting with family and services while living on the street. While writing about the homeless sex offenders in a 2009 storySF Weekly talked with a sex offender as he watched kids ice skate at Union Square, and another who said he's slept across from a school -- on the sidewalk. 

Deputy Attorney General Janet Neeley also sat on the board at the time of the report. Yet now, the attorney general represents the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation [CDCR] in defending Jessica's Law against the challenge brought by at least 50 sex offender parolees in San Francisco. 

Harris' spokeswoman Lynda Gledhill says Harris' defense of the residency restrictions doesn't indicate she supports sex offenders walking around homeless."I think you're making a leap there that's not justified. She's defending her client, the CDCR. I don't think ... that she's supporting them being homeless."

When we pointed out that Governor Jerry Brown, when he was attorney general, refused to defend Proposition 8, the ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage, Gledhill told us "That only happens in rare circumstances."

Apparently, the hot-button issue of sex offenders isn't one of those circumstances. So, for tonight, the state will set up reporting centers for the sex offenders who are homeless due to an unintended consequence of Jessica's Law. 

Do you feel safer?

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Lauren Smiley

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