Fullerton City Council votes to enforce Jessica’s Law

A law enabling police to fine, prosecute and jail sex offenders who reside within 2,000 ft. of a school or park was voted in unanimously by the Fullerton City Council Tuesday.

Prior to this it was illegal under Jessica’s Law for sex offenders to live in these areas but police were unable to act when infractions occurred.

“We did a lot of research and the conclusion was that the law had no teeth,” Fullerton Police Public Information Officer Sgt. Andrew Goodrich said. “If you were in violation we could wag our finger at you, but nothing else.”

The law was prompted by a public complaint made by the Levinson family of Fullerton – who reside near Laguna Lake Park. According the Orange County Register, Eric Hinnenkamp, a registered sex offender, inherited his parent’s home near the park and there was fear he might move in.

“Experience has shown the recidivism rate of sex offenders is significant,” Goodrich said. “Anything we can do to prevent (sex offenders) from having access to children is a plus.”

Goodrich added that although this is a huge step, parents should still be “vigilant” and watch their kids because there are still a lot of sex offenders that have not been caught.

Jessica’s Law was enacted by California voters in 2006. According to a Los Angeles Times article, the law, officially called Proposition 83, “increased penalties for repeat sex offenders, prohibited them from living near schools and parks, and changed the law to permit their indefinite confinement to mental institutions, instead of two years with the possibility of extensions.”

Goodrich stated that although no ramifications for violating Proposition 83 were included in the initial act – a clause in the proposition enabled cities to set punishments for violators.

“I’m relieved, (sexual violence is) always something, as a girl, we worry about,” said Alexandra Schnack, a master’s student in counseling. “Maybe it will help people feel better about going to night classes.”

Other students echoed Schnack’s statement and agreed that the new law will make Fullerton a safer place.

“If the law isn’t enforced it’s like the law doesn’t exist,” said Jamel Shamiyeh, a sociology student. “It will make things safer. People who have violated the law in the past might do so again if they have not been rehabilitated.”

The law will take effect in a month and will subject violators to a fine of up to $1,000 and six months in jail.

About Keith Cousins