Cerritos considers banning sex offenders from parks, library, city facilities

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Cerritos city council considers an ordinance that would ban registered sex offenders from the city park, library, senior center, civic center and performing arts facility.

Registered sex offenders could soon be banned from a number of public Cerritos buildings: city parks, library, senior centers and Civic Center and performing arts facility.

The Cerritos City Council will vote next Thursday on whether to make the ordinance official.

The draft ordinance allows registered sex offenders to get prior permission from the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department or the Cerritos director of community and safety services to be at these city places.

The proposed rule would ban registered sex offenders from loitering at parks and other city facilities where children play. Loitering is described in the draft ordinance “to sit, idly stand around, or move slowly about without an apparent lawful purpose.”

“Enforcement is a little problematic with something like this because you don’t know who a registered sex offender might be,” said Gregory Berg, director of Cerritos community and safety services.

There are 21 registered sex offenders living in Cerritos. More than 400 registrants live in surrounding cities.

Berg told council members he didn’t have specific information to suggest there was a problem with sex offenders at city parks. But he said this is part of an ongoing push originating from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office to encourage cities to adopt ordinances prohibiting sex offenders from entering parks, beaches or public places where children gather or play.

The cities of Bellflower and Santa Fe Springs have adopted the Los Angeles County “child safety zones” code. It basically limits registered sex offenders from coming within 300 feet of a school, day care, park or place where children are and deputies must prove the person intended to commit a sex crime.

Buena Park, Cypress, Lakewood and La Palma do not have ordinances restricting registered sex offenders from city parks or facilities.

Cerritos City Council members discussed whether there was potential for civil rights violations or liabilities, but Mayor Jim Edwards threw his full support behind the proposed ordinance.

“Everyday in this warm weather, there’s been kids out there and their parents playing in the fountain. And if there is someone there that just doesn’t fit in, I think this give our deputies a tool to say, ‘Excuse me, can we talk a minute,’” Edwards said.

Councilman Joseph Cho voted against the ordinance calling it a false sense of security for parents.

“They are designed to make politicians look tough on crime and to make people feel good,” he said.

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