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Keeping sex offenders away from schools

October 14, 2005

A new state law signed last week by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is intended to keep the worst paroled child molesters from living near schools.

But a Times analysis shows that it will do far more than that, making the state's most populous areas almost completely off limits to those offenders.

Existing law prohibits anyone convicted of molesting a child younger than 14 from living within one-quarter mile of a public or private school that has grades no higher than eighth.

The new law extends the buffer to one-half mile from any school -- public or private -- through grade 12 for offenders who have been classified as "high risk," meaning they are likely to repeat their crime.

State officials say about 1,000 ex-felons fit that category. Those of them now living within half a mile of a school will have to move before the law takes effect July 1.

The map at right shows locations of California's roughly 9,700 public schools and 4,500 private schools.

Across most of California there would still be no restriction. But in urban areas, where schools are close together, the buffers against high-risk offenders overlap extensively, leaving only small, oddly shaped spaces where they could live.

In Southern California, only a few suburban enclaves, such as parts of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, and the mountainous areas would be permitted.

Sources: California Department of Education, ESRI, California Penal Code, secretary of state. Data analysis by Sandra Poindexter.

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