California Dolphin: statewide California news

You Ask. We Investigate: Predators at our Parks

In the Coachella Valley, the regulation prohibiting sex offenders from being at parks is little to none. This allows registered sex offenders to slip through the cracks when it comes to local organizations.
An anonymous man, referred to as “Tom” in the story, told NBC Palm Springs the Palm Springs Gay Softball League currently has sex offenders managing and playing on its teams. Tom was molested several times as a child. He shared one of his experiences as a child at a baseball field:
“He [the predator] opened the door behind me about a minute after I was inside the stall. I didn’t lock it thinking I didn’t have to. When I turned around, his pants were around his ankles. I screamed, the coach and the assistant coach ran after the guy. He was holding his pants up with one hand, running away as fast as he can.”
When Tom did the research and found there were sex offenders in the league said it “made his stomach turn.”
Scot Howard, the commissioner of the Gay Softball League, said there is not a required a background check to join a team, similar to several other local organizations.
“If information is presented to us on a specific individual, we as a board will sit down and evaluate that on a case by case basis,” Howard said.
Howard denied the claims of having sex offenders currently in his league but when NBC Palm Springs asked about a specific manager for one of the teams who is a registered sex offender in Palm Springs, he said he was “not comfortable discussing” that allegation.
“I think that it’s the duty of the league and it’s the duty of the city to say we need to protect our kids,” Tom said.
Big League Dreams said if they are alerted of a sex offender on a team, they take immediate action. Right now, the city of Palm Springs does not have any ordinances in place to prohibit sex offenders from going to local parks.
California law reads: A sex offender on parole for an offense against a child under fourteen years of age may not enter a park where children regularly gather without permission from his or her parole agent (Penal Code, § 3053.8(a).).
“We try to do the best that we can,” Howard said. “If a case is ever presented to us, we would do our due diligence and evaluate that and take that very seriously.”
Howard said his league prides itself in being safe and welcoming.
“When we started back in 2004 that was the goal of the founders,” he said. “A safe, fun environment.”
Big League Dreams said in the past they found were alerted about two sex offenders in the league. Those two players were no longer allowed in the park.
In response to our requests, the city of Palm Springs’ attorney sent this email in part:
“There is no Palm Springs ordinance prohibiting registered sex offenders from using public parks. There has been a fair amount of litigation challenging such restrictions.  For example, in 2014, a court of appeal struck down an Irvine ordinance that barred sex offenders from entering city parks. The court held that sex offender registration is preempted by state law, which regulates sex offenders’ daily life.”
Other state laws include:
·          A sex offender on parole for an offense against a child under 14 years of age may not enter a park where children regularly gather without permission from his or her parole agent. (Penal Code, § 3053.8(a).)  
·          A sex offender may not enter a school without “lawful business” and written permission from the school. (Penal Code, § 626.81.)  
·          A sex offender who remains at, or returns to, a school or any other public place where children regularly gather after a school or law enforcement official has asked the offender to leave is subject to heightened penalties. (Penal Code, § 653b.)
·          A sex offender who committed an offense against a child under 16 years of age may not volunteer or work where he or she would have direct and unaccompanied contact with minor children. (§ 290.95.)
·          A sex offender may never reside within 2,000 feet of a school or park where children regularly gather. (Penal Code § 3003.5.)

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