Fiona Ma for State Assembly

Lawmakers vow crackdown on sex offenders near day care

Two California lawmakers vowed to crack down Thursday after a state audit discovered 49 sex offenders registered as living in facilities that provide day care to children.

"Parents who go to work, drop off their kids in the morning, pick them up -- they should not have to worry about the safety of their children," said Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco.

Ma and GOP Assemblyman Anthony Adams, R-Hesperia, vowed to jointly craft legislation aimed at ensuring that such living arrangements, already illegal, do not go undetected.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger promised through a spokeswoman to "work with the Legislature to prevent this from happening again."

The Department of Social Services did not dispute the accuracy of the audit's database check but found that some records might be outdated.

The 49 sex offenders cited by the audit were registered to 46 child-care facilities, all of which were investigated in the audit's wake, said John Wagner, state social services director.

The result is that nine of the child-care facilities have been targeted for license revocation, but only two were caring for children -- seven were not, Wagner said.

No problem was discovered at 24 of the 46 addresses, meaning the facility was no longer in business, the address was inaccurate or the structure was unoccupied, Wagner said.

No immediate conclusions could be reached for the remaining 13 addresses. Additional follow-up is planned, Wagner said.

"We have no information that any crime was committed" against children at the licensed care facilities, Wagner said.

Criminal background checks are required of anyone who lives or works in licensed child-care facilities. Owners must report newcomers to the Department of Social Services.

Wagner said breakdowns apparently occurred because his agency was not notified.

Wagner said he could support the notion of strengthening data sharing between his agency and the Department of Justice, which maintains sex offender files.

"It's an area we're very seriously interested in and concerned about," he said.

Discovery of the 49 sex offenders registered to child-care facilities was part of a much larger state audit that found:

  • Sex offenders housed in at least 352 licensed residential facilities, designed to serve at-risk adults.
  • More than 500 instances in which two or more paroled sex offenders were registered to the same address. A total of 332 were hotels or apartment complexes, accommodating 2,038 offenders.
State Auditor Elaine Howle said the audit involved analyzing and cross-checking databases of state-licensed social service facilities and registered sex offenders.

The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation submitted a response to Howle that noted several areas of dispute.

The corrections department noted, for example, that the audit cited eight counties where multiple sex offenders were registered to a single residence.

"An Internet Google search, in fact, determined some of the facilities were county jails, detention facilities, hospitals and other large residential facilities," the corrections agency said.