Constitutional rights advocates sued the city of Lancaster on Tuesday to block a recently enacted ordinance banning registered sex offenders from going to - or even being near - the city's parks, movie theaters and other public and private locations.
"The ordinance basically violates the state and federal constitutions, and fails to protect public safety," said Janice Bellucci, president of a group called California Reform Sex Offender Laws.
"The purpose of the ordinance is to protect kids, but most children who are sexually assaulted are not assaulted by (registered) sex offenders but members of their family, teachers, coaches and members of the clergy," she said. "Also, most sexual assaults of children do not occur in public places but in very private places like homes and schools."
Lancaster city officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The ordinance, which took effect in October after being unanimously approved by the Lancaster City Council, imposes restrictions on registered sex offenders that go above and beyond those imposed by state law.
It prohibits registered sex offenders from coming within 300 feet of certain public and private locations in Lancaster, including the city's library, museum and parks, as well as privately owned movie theaters and arcades.
Bellucci said the ordinance would effectively kick registered sex offenders out of downtown Lancaster.
"People who are on the registry have already paid their debt to society and have already been deemed safe by law enforcement; otherwise, they wouldn't have been released from prison," Bellucci said. "What Lancaster is doing is continuing their punishment."
Other provisions in the ordinance allow only one registered sex offender to reside in a home, hotel, motel or inn. It also prohibits them from decorating their homes and answering the door to children on Halloween.
The city of Lake Forest in Orange County repealed its own additional restrictions on registered sex offenders Tuesday night, after Bellucci's organization also threatened it with a federal lawsuit.