February 01, Many counselors who treat sex offenders say that is no big deal - almost no offenders, they say, are likely to attack a schoolchild at random. But others say more needs to be done to protect kids.
A measure called "Jessica's Law," backed by the governor this week and pending in the Legislature, would make it illegal for sex offenders to live within 2, feet of a school or park. Our journalism takes a lot of time, effort, and hard work to produce. If you read and enjoy our journalism, please consider subscribing today. Jessica's Law would render cities in Sacramento County mostly off-limits to sexual offenders, effectively banishing them to rural parts of the county or into thin wedges between roughly public and private schools and parks.
More than 1, registered sex offenders in Sacramento County would have to move, the Bee's analysis found. A private group is working hard on a ballot initiative with the same restrictions.
And a number of bills, including at least one other still pending, have been introduced during the past few years that would restrict where sex offenders can live. It's not just a California phenomenon. Measures like Jessica's Law are taking off across the nation. Several states - Arkansas, Iowa and Tennessee, to name a few - have passed measures within the past few years restricting where sex offenders can live, most of which mention schools, parks or day-care centers.
Counselors who treat sex offenders - and some sex offenders themselves - say such measures often are ineffective and unfair. The large majority of registered sex offenders are not predators "following kids home from school," said Gerry Blasingame, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Redding who has been treating sex offenders for 20 years.
Most child sex offenses occur within a family, Blasingame said. Only a small percentage are committed by strangers taking advantage of a child at or near school, he said.
Residency laws, Blasingame said, shouldn't lump sex offenders who pose little risk to children in the same category as the few offenders who might actually target a random child. Niki Delson, a licensed clinical social worker who has treated sex offenders for 30 years, said forcing sex offenders to move away from most of society can be a dangerous proposition.
Chris Wetzel, a registered sex offender who lives in midtown Sacramento, would hate it if the state forced him to move, but feels powerless. Wetzel, who is 52 and married, said he did time at the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center a decade ago on charges of lewd or lascivious acts with a child. He's been off parole for years. I mean, you could have a He says expanding the radius where sex offenders can't live will do little to prevent further sex offenses.
Goldenflame, Wetzel, Delson and Blasingame all spoke to The Bee about residency laws a few weeks before the governor and others unveiled Jessica's Law on Tuesday.
The proposal would introduce several changes: Supporters of such measures say they are justified by the high possibility that sex offenders will repeat their crimes.
The roughly 1, sex offenders in Sacramento County living within 2, feet of a school or park found by The Bee do not include hundreds more for whom the state does not publish an exact address. Many Sacramento County schools have multiple sex offenders living within 2, feet.
Around downtown's Sacramento Montessori School, for example, at least 12 sex offenders fall within the 2,foot radius and would be required to move. Sex offenders can still travel. That's why schools also need lots of information about sex offenders living in the neighborhood, she said. The 2,foot buffer zone wasn't proposed arbitrarily, George Runner said. Iowa has a buffer zone of similar size that has withstood legal challenge, he said, adding that he believes offenders would still be able to find places to live in urban areas.
Jessica's Law is not the only residency requirement pending in the state Legislature. Assembly member Rudy Bermudez, D-Norwalk, has a bill that would add high schools to the current quarter-mile buffer zone for certain parolees.
Allowing many sex offenders on parole to live near high schools "creates a target-rich environment for them," Bermudez said. Jessica's Law is named for Jessica Lunsford, a Florida 9-year-old who earlier this year was taken from her bed by a convicted sex offender, molested and later found dead.
The addresses were copied in late June. The state does not post addresses for hundreds of local registered sex offenders convicted of certain crimes. Only sex offenders with addresses posted online were included in the paper's analysis.
The locations of Sacramento County's public schools were taken from the California Department of Education. Private school locations were obtained from www. Park locations were taken from the Web sites of cities or regional park districts in the county. In some cases, address information was inadequate to allow mapping.
This was especially true of parks - about 23 percent of parks in the county could not be mapped. About 95 percent of sex offenders and schools were mapped. Park and school buffer zones were drawn from addresses rather than from their outer boundaries. The Bee's Phillip Reese can be reached at or preese sacbee.