The New York Times reports that American municipalities large and small have developed a plan to force clusters of convicted sex offenders to leave a neighborhood: open a tiny park. In most places, laws prohibit registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or a public park. So from Florida to California, communities are building pocket parks, sometimes so small that they have barely enough room for a swing set, to drive out sex offenders. A playground installation company in Houston has even advertised its services to homeowners associations as an option for keeping sex offenders away.
While the pocket parks springing up around the country offer a sense of security to residents, they will probably leave more convicted sex offenders homeless. And research shows that once sex offenders lose stable housing, they become not only harder to track but also more likely to commit another crime, according to state officials involved with managing such offenders. “Putting in parks doesn't just break up clusters — it makes it impossible for sex offenders to find housing in the whole city,” said Janet Neeley, a member of the California Sex Offender Management Board. “It's counterproductive to public safety, because when you have nothing to lose, you are much more likely to commit a crime than when you are rebuilding your life.”