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City’s Proposed Playground Ban Stigmatizes Childless Adults as Pedophiles

Feb 23, 2017 by Mike McKneely in Sex Crimes

Last December, Los Angeles (LA) City Council received a motion by Councilman Mitch O’Farrell that “Limits Access to Children’s Playgrounds.” The beginning of the motion states that to provide a safe environment for our children on local playgrounds, “the City should limit access to children and parents or guardians accompanying children.” The motion asks that the City attorney and the Department of Recreation and Parks prepare an ordinance that limits access to children’s playgrounds within any City park to only children and parents or guardians who have children with them.

The motion has offended many individuals throughout the city who feel they are being labeled pedophiles or dangerous to children simply because they are not parents. While limitations on registered sex offenders’ access to these areas may make sense, the current proposal is overly broad. If a vague or broad ordinance based on the motion were to go into effect, there is a potential for childless adults to be accused of intending to commit sex crimes with children. These individuals would need an experienced Fresno sex crimes attorney from Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer to prove their innocence.

Proposed Ordinance Leads to Public Outcry

Many area citizens were taken aback by the proposed ban, stating that it seems to assume a childless adult is a pedophile or drug dealer and not safe to be around children. The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board argued this is a fear-based policy “[t]hat makes a childless adult a criminal just for being in a particular public space…”

Many individuals are worried this law could be used to target individuals who:

  • Use the park and playground equipment to exercise
  • Sit in the park as a place to read or enjoy the outdoors
  • Use the park as a convenient location to meet with friends or family
  • Go to the park to eat a meal
  • Use park benches or tables to play chess or checkers

This ban is particularly worrisome when individuals consider the limited green space in LA. Many neighborhoods and their citizens may not have yards or the ability to travel to other green spaces like state or national parks. The local community playground may be where people of all ages, whether or not they have children, go to in order to enjoy being outside.

Councilmember Fights Back

Councilman O’Farrell argues that this ordinance is not intended to ban all childless adults from local parks. In a letter to the public, O’Farrell states this is a limited proposal that would only affect small areas designated by the city as children’s play areas, which are usually clearly delineated with fences. He claims the ordinance would be an extension of current state law that prohibits certain unauthorized adults unaccompanied by children in schools or public spaces.

California Penal Code section 653b states that no individual can loiter in or around a school with an unlawful purpose. Loiter means to linger, delay, or to be idle around a school or public place without a lawful purpose. This could include hanging around to sell or distribute drugs or commit a sex crime. The law specifically requires that prosecutors prove an individual arrested for this offense intended to commit a crime if he or she had the opportunity to do so.

While O’Farrell may intend for a city ordinance that proposes a similar rule prohibiting adults who linger in children’s play areas without a lawful purpose and with the intent to commit a crime, that is not what is stated in his motion. The motion specifically states the city should limit “access to a children’s playground within a city park to children and parents or guardians accompanying a child.” This motion in no way states these areas should be protected from individuals who want to commit a crime.

Similar Ordinances in Other Cities

O’Farrell uses New York City as an example of another place with a similar ordinance. But this may be a poor example of what he wants to accomplish. While New York City does have a similar regulation, it has also seen its fair share of controversy. For instance, adults who did not have children were ticketed for eating doughnuts within a park or playing chess in a playground area. These individuals did not have the option to pay the ticket and plead guilty. Instead, they received a summons with a date and time that they must appear in court and were not given information on how much this violation will cost.

Ultimately, New York City may be a better example of what has not worked well and how LA can improve upon the concept to protect children, but it should not limit an adult’s right to be in public spaces.

Our Fresno Sex Crimes Attorneys Can Help if You Are Accused of a Crime

Many residents of large cities still enjoy the outdoors, yet have few chances to get outside. Those who live in apartment buildings may take advantage of parks with playground areas to enjoy the sunshine or experience grass occasionally. Unfortunately, adults without children can be unfairly stigmatized or falsely accused of having ill intentions for being in a public park.

Anyone charged with attempting to commit a sex crime should contact a Fresno sex crimes attorney from Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer to aggressively defend their innocence. We will build the strongest defense under the law.

Call us today at (559) 443-7442 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

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