By Senator Scott Wilk
Over 40 innocent, unsuspecting women fell victim to a brutal rapist. They spanned California as an evil menace remained on the hunt for over two decades.
It’s a tragic tale for the women involved, their families and our entire society, but luckily, it ended as it was supposed to, with a violent predator behind bars, never again to threaten our mothers, daughters, wives and communities. Or so we thought.
And for people in the areas down the hill and in Northern California where he previously stalked, it was true; he never returned. But for us in the High Desert, their nightmare became our reality as ,upon his release, still deemed by prison officials as a violent predator, a judge in Silicon Valley, where he had served time for a string of rapes, ruled that the Pillowcase Rapist was to be placed in the High Desert; out of sight and mind for most but front and center for those of us who call the desert our home.
This isn’t how it should be. We’re a hard-working bunch in the High Desert, and we have plenty of our own challenges to deal with in our communities. There is no excuse for the rest of California making us their dumping ground for violent, dangerous undesirables; and yet that’s what they’ve done.
In the Los Angeles County areas of the High Desert alone, there are nearly 500 sex offenders currently living in our communities. In San Bernardino and Kern, hundreds more. But it isn’t just sexual predators. Recently released inmates of all kinds, from serial robbers to violent gang members; you name it, are being bussed out to places like Lancaster, Victorville, Adelanto, and other High Desert communities, communities to which they have no previous ties whatsoever.
That’s why this year I’ve introduced a pair of bills to address this problem and keep our High Desert communities safe. Senate Bill 1199 will require that prison inmates, including sex offenders, will be released to a community to which they have previous familial or other ties. It takes a village to raise a child, the old adage goes. And it’s true. But when that village fails, they shouldn’t be off the hook. Another village shouldn’t have to take on responsibility for their shortcomings. No, these recently released criminals should be returned to their home communities to continue their rehabilitation, not shipped off to the High Desert. Senate Bill 1199 will make sure that is the case going forward.
Crime is on the rise in our communities. Violent crime is up five percent in some High Desert communities, retail theft is up 25 percent in others, the trend is not good for our region, even as crime nationwide continues to decline. In an era of California public safety policies like Assembly Bill 109, Prop. 47 and Prop 57, that basically amount to “release prisoners now, ask questions later,” it is more important now than ever to appropriately place and monitor these newly released offenders to ensure ongoing safety for our communities.
That’s why I’ve introduced another bill – Senate Bill 1198 – aimed at managing our released sexual predators. The Sex Offender Management Board is the state’s body responsible for assessing the fitness of a sex offender to be released and, if they are fit for release, the appropriate amount of supervision. A great concept and they serve in many ways as our last line of defense against frivolous release of potentially violent sexual predators. Unfortunately, the state has not provided them with adequate information to make the assessments needed to determine these things, so the Board is forced to make judgment calls on life-and-death decisions. This cannot stand, and Senate Bill 1198 will bring us within reach of sensible management for soon-to-be and recently released criminals in our communities.
Senate Bill 1198 will force the State and all its departments, including the Department of Justice and the Department of Corrections, to provide any and all information the Board may need or want to utilize in the process of their reviews on potential releases. Currently, there is no such requirement, and information sharing is spotty at best. With SB 1198 we will have a more informed board that will make more informed decisions that will lead to more accurate and appropriate management of released sexual predators so that they may not continue to hunt for prey upon release.
Crime is a very serious issue for us in the High Desert. It’s time the whole state starts to realize we are not their dumping ground, and this pair of bills will be a huge step in that direction.
Senator Scott Wilk represents the 21st Senate District, which encompasses the Antelope, Santa Clarita and Victor valleys.