LAKE LOS ANGELES – More than 40 people attended a balloon release ceremony at Twin Lakes Community Church on Friday, offering hope and remembrance for those who have suffered sexual assault in local communities.
Hosted by the Ladies of Lake Los Angeles, the balloon release was intended to divert attention away from sexual offenders – namely serial predator Christopher Hubbart who now resides in the Eastern Antelope Valley area – while also displaying community-wide support for victims and survivors.
“Our goal for today is just to bring the community out to release balloons in honor of the victims – victims of not only Christopher Hubbart but all sexual assault victims, whether they be women, men or children,” said Deb Hill, organizer of the Ladies of Lake LA.
Hill said the community event was also to gather momentum in the fight against the release of sexually violent predators in local communities.
“What I see is that we are a continual dumping ground because of our rural area situation,” she told The AV Times. “They tell us that they are releasing nonviolent offenders that shouldn’t be on the (Megan’s Law) list, but we are very aware that they are also releasing sexually violent predators, and Christopher Hubbart is the first.”
Hill explained that the State of California has proposed the release of about 900 sexual offenders, according to information she gathered from online sites like the California Department of State Hospitals and the California Sex Offender Management Board.
Her concern is that 450 of the offenders may be released from state hospitals, like Coalinga and Atascadero, which would impose strict residency requirements – per Jessica’s Law – on these sex offenders, such as forbidding them from residing within 2,000 feet of any public or private school or park where children would normally gather.
Hill’s concern is that the Antelope Valley’s spacious and sometimes isolated High Desert communities would make an ideal place for the relocation of violent sex offenders in Los Angeles County.
“If any of those are coming to LA County, they will come here first,” she warned. “And that’s just not acceptable.”
State Assemblyman Steve Fox echoed the very same concern.
“We’re stuck with approximately 900 more of them to be released. The problem is that we’re in the one area in LA County that has all the territory,” Fox told those gathered for the balloon ceremony, noting that Los Angeles County already contains 10 percent of the state’s sexual predators, while the Antelope Valley makes up only 2.5 percent of the county’s population. “So we have more than our share already.”
Pastor Bob Benoit of the Twin Lakes Community Church provided comforting words and support to those in attendance.
“I just know that there are a great deal of people in this community who appreciate what you’re doing,” he said. “So, I continue to offer up my prayers for you as you go about your responsibilities – about your sacred task – in making this community safer for each and every one of us.”
Addressing people at the event, Palmdale City Councilmember Tom Lackey offered insight into the problem of a fragmented society, where few are fighting the good fight because individuals tend to be consumed with their own lives.
“My hope, ladies and gentlemen, is that we as a community will continue to focus on what we can do to be part of the solution in our system that seems to be so broken,” he said. “We need to focus on what made the country strong – what made the community strong – and that is thinking outside ourself.”
Before the release of the balloons, Ladies of Lake LA member Cheryl Holbrook explained the significance behind the balloon ceremony and the different-colored balloons.
“There is teal to resemble all of the victims and survivors,” she said, encouraging people to write an uplifting message on the balloons to be released. “And we have white, which means purity, to send off for those victims who are no longer with us and have passed on.”
Other guest speakers who attended the event to show their support for local survivors of sexual assault included Liane Roth, a field representative for State Senator Steve Knight’s office; Palmdale Sheriff’s Station Captain Don Ford; and Lancaster Sheriff’s Station Captain Pat Nelson.
The Ladies of Lake LA also circulated a petition among participants, which is to ask the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to pass an ordinance restricting the residential placement of sexually violent predators.
More information on the conditional release of sexually violent predators in Los Angeles County is available online at http://da.lacounty.gov/LACSVP.htm.
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About the authorJim E. Winburn is freelance reporter covering news of public interest.