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South Gate Police Map Sex Offenders

April 06, 1999|MONTE MORIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

South Gate police have stirred up a mini-controversy by printing street maps that designate the general location of registered sexual offenders who live within a mile of any of the city's 13 elementary schools.

Police hope the maps will encourage parents to consult the Megan's Law computer database and identify registered sex offenders in their neighborhoods.

Police also said that they want to give parents the chance to change their children's route to school if they now pass an offender's home.

The maps are scheduled to be delivered to schools today, and police are asking that teachers send the fliers home with students. "The schools are anxious to get the information and pass it out," Lt. Martin Van Lierop said.

But even if some schools are eager to distribute the fliers, Los Angeles Unified School District administrators are less than enthusiastic.

Only recently informed of the plan, administrators said they won't allow distribution of the maps until they review them. "There is some hesitancy in sending these things home with kids," said Dan Isaacs, assistant superintendent of school operations.

Among those particularly skeptical of the idea is Wesley Mitchell, chief of the school district police.

"I don't know the value of such a distribution," Mitchell said. "The intent may be to have me hold my kid's hand along a certain street, but now everybody who crosses that street will be looking at everybody else."

Each map shows a mile-wide section of the city's street grid with a school in the center. Black marks show the general area of registered sexual offenders' residences.

Randy Davis, a sex crimes investigator for South Gate, said the maps show the locations of all residents who have been convicted of sexual felonies, including lewd conduct, rape, child molestation and sexual battery.

The maps do not include names or addresses. To obtain further information, parents must consult a computer at Lynwood's Century sheriff's station.

Police say the city has not had any problems in the past with registered sexual offenders bothering students.

"We're just looking for heightened awareness," Van Lierop said.

In all, 100 to 150 registered sexual offenders live in the city, but the maps focus only on those who live within a mile of city schools because, police said, because children who live within that distance must walk to school.

South Gate police picked up on the flier idea from Fremont police in Northern California. Fremont police said the maps did not cause any vigilante behavior.

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