Elk Grove Child Protection Forum Seeks Solutions to Tough Problems

 Sergio Rameriz  A diverse group of public officials and local politicians met last night to discuss a vexing problem facing many com...

Sergio Rameriz

A diverse group of public officials and local politicians met last night to discuss a vexing problem facing many communities - how to protect children from sexual predators.

The Child Protection Forum was held at the Elk Grove City Hall and was conducted by Elk Grove Vice Mayor Steve Detrick and Council Member Jim Cooper. Joining in the discussion were Sacramento County Supervisor Don Nottoli, Elk Grove Police Chief Robert Lehner with representation from the state assembly, state agencies and area cities.

The forum was held in response to on-going concern in Elk Grove regarding residential treatment facilities housing juvenile sex offenders. The topic burst on the scene last June when residents of Elk Grove's Cheer Court told of disturbing behavior by a juvenile sex offender at a facility on their street.

Subsequent to that, the city has moved to address these concerns by passing an ordinance tightening restrictions on sex offenders. Last night's session was held to seek public input on how to address concerns about juvenile sex offenders.

In his opening comments, Detrick noted that Elk Grove is not alone in dealing with the problem and the forum was meant to raise awareness and find possible solutions.

"This is a regional issue, not just a local issue," Detrick said. "The problem does not stop at the city limits."

Cooper said that the recently passed ordinance could only legally deal with adults and many juvenile sex offenders had been shifted to residential facilities because of budgetary woes. Cooper noted many of these offenders who might have been assigned to correctional facilities are now in group homes.

"This is something we need to wrap our hands around as a region," Cooper said.

Elk Grove Police Chief Robert Lehner whose department has worked closely with Cheer Court residents credited the Elk Grove Community Connection for bringing forward an ordinance. "We used that as a base," Lehner said. 

Lehner also noted the ordinance was limited as residential care facilities are largely regulated by state regulations and the Federal Fair Housing laws.

Janet Neeley, a Deputy Attorney General with the State Attorney General's office and a board member of the California Sex Offender Management Board office noted that residence restrictions have unintended consequences because many sex offenders end up either over-concentrated in one area or homeless. 

"It has created a huge glut of homeless sex offenders," Neeley said. "They are far more dangerous."

Neeley said juvenile sex offenders are treated differently in terms of restrictions than adult offenders and that residential facilities often provide stable environments that offer more safety. "As a group, they have a lower recidivism rate," she said of those treated in residential facilities    

During a question and answer period several participants expressed their frustration to Sergio Ramirez, Program Administrator, Health Care Licensing unit of the Department of Social Services. Cheer Court residents Dallas Brossard and Kerri Wilmot, who first reported on the problems, criticized the department for not returning calls and being generally unresponsive.

Ramirez also fielded several questions about licensing requirements, care facility staff training and reporting requirements. Ramirez noted he has met with Elk Grove officials several times and that there would be more communication between the agency and the city regarding facilities.

Supervisor Don Nottoli, who was seated in the audience, spoke passionately about improving communication between state agencies and county and city government about notifications regarding new facilities. Nottoli said legislatively establishing more communication to local governments would be a good first step.

"The public has a right to now," he added.

Another problem explored was with probation reports. Juvenile sex offenders are typically placed in counties outside of where they reside or committed their acts and do not check in with local probation officers. Lehner noted probation officers do receive notifications from other probation departments but do not have jurisdiction

"Probation is the biggest loophole," Wilmot noted.

Post a Comment Default Comments

Follow Us



Elk Grove News Minute

All previous Elk Grove News Minutes, interviews, and Dan Schmitt's Ya' Gotta be Schmittin' Me podcasts are now available on iTunes