Last updated 11/4/2022 at 10:22am
California Senate Bill 1034 was signed by Governor Gavin Newsom on Sept. 30, creating a more direct path for County and local officials to assist and consult in locating and securing housing for Sexually Violent Predators. This bill was first introduced in February of this year showing the lengthy path of changing the laws and process for improved SVP placement. The bill requires the Department of State Hospitals to convene a committee with the Sheriff or Chief of Police, County Counsel and County District Attorney.
SB 1034 also strengthens the requirements for a court to make a determination of ‘extraordinary circumstances’ and then direct the placement of an SVP outside the County of domicile. San Diego County has not yet been impacted by judges in other counties deciding to place an SVP in San Diego county, but other counties in California have been directed to take SVPs whose last home (or where their crimes were committed) was in another county. The bill also requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for costs mandated by state laws and rules regarding SVP placements.
On October 11, the case of SVP Michael Cheek’s proposed placement in a neighborhood in Santa Cruz was heard in appellate court. The core of the issue is whether ‘homeschool’ should be covered by the restrictions against placing an SVP in close proximity.
The Borrego Springs SVP Task Force is closely monitoring that case as the facts are roughly similar to the situation around the proposed placement of an SVP on Zuni Trail. While State law imposes distance restrictions around schools for SVPs who meet certain criteria, State Education code defines all home schools that meet state criteria to be a ‘private school’. There is no ‘home school’ defined by the State – home schooling is referred to as a ‘private school’. The CA Attorney General is arguing against the local community, basically saying that home schools are nor granted the same protections as other schools, and that by inference, children in home schools are not given the safety and protection measure of other school children.
It is not unheard of that two state requirements are at odds with each other, and the Santa Cruz DA has been aggressive in pushing back on SVP placements to protect local communities. Also at issue in the Cheek case is the timing of two events – the start date of the school, and the announcement date of the proposed SVP placement.
The Santa Cruz DA is arguing that since the private school was in existence prior to the announcement of the placement, the school takes precedence and the SVP should not be allowed into the neighborhood. A decision is expected by mid-January 2023. Until that decision is rendered, all sides in the pending placement of SVP Badger have agreed to hold off on any further action.
On October 20, Supervisor Jim Desmond held a virtual SVP Town Hall. Along with Supervisor Desmond, speakers included Pat Espinoza, the Chief Deputy District Attorney, Kyle Sand, the Senior Deputy County Counsel, and Sgt. Miguel Lopez from the Sheriff’s office.
After Supervisor Desmond spoke about the need for greater visibility and awareness for the community, Espinoza provided a general overview of what the DA office can do, and has been working on. He also spoke about the apparent disconnect between the San Diego County Sex Offenders page, which has the profiles of some of the SVPs in the County, and the Megan’s Laws web site, which includes all SVPs in the County.
The County DA does not track or monitor SVPs who are no longer on Conditional Release.
Kyle Sand mentioned the recent passage of CA SB 1034, and said the County is reviewing how that will impact their operations, and what action will need to be taken. He did not provide an estimated date the County would start meeting the new law. Most poignant were statements from Belinda Crieci, the mother of a victim of an SVP. Her experiences, and the long-term trauma brought about over the decades, with each proposed placement were moving.
The SVP Task Force members will continue to work with the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, KidSafe California, and our friends in Mount Helix and Ranchita as we continue to pursue recommendations to place SVPs in industrial locations, far away from neighborhoods. The soon-to-be-formed County committee (Sheriff/Police, DA, & County Counsel) should work with the Superior Court to ensure that placement is away from anyone in the SVP’s victim profile. SVP Victim profiles typically include children, young adults (male and female), and women of every age. The goal is successful Conditional Release Program Placement for SVPs. Industrial locations afford the opportunity for SVPs to potentially find employment and earn enough money to afford a place to live and potentially leave state care and graduate to unconditional release.