JOLIET, Ill. - The Joliet City Council voted unanimously in favor of purchasing a home to turn into a park Tuesday night. The reason for the purchase is to force child sex offenders to move out of another home nearby.
Six sex offenders moved into an apartment building in the Cunningham neighborhood in Joliet this spring and one has since moved out. Mayor Bob O’Dekirk and residents are not happy, and say they were not notified.
FOX 32 Chicago talked to a resident who lives in the same building as the sex offenders, and he said his street has been like a ghost town.
"The summer has been like hell. You can’t see anybody. I can’t even go outside and have a cigarette, or a drink. If I come out everyone drives by and gives me their fingers," said Robert.
The sex offenders moved into the gray brick apartment building at 1000 N. Cora Street.
Per state law, sex offenders are not supposed to live together but a federal judge ruled that unconstitutional after a lawsuit.
Mayor O’Dekirk says they should not be all living together like that, so the city council voted in favor of buying a nearby home and tearing it down to build a park, which would kick out the child sex offenders because they are not allowed to live within 500 feet of a park.
Robert says he gets yelled at all the time by residents.
"They count me as one of them now," Robert said as a passing car shouted ‘Get them out of here!'
"I can’t even come out."
At least one resident was at the meeting Tuesday night and applauded the council’s decision.
"Thank you guys for voting yes on acquiring that property for the playground. Hopefully we can do some good and keep some kids safe," said resident Jim Lanham.
NewDay Apartments released a statement Wednesday responding to this situation.
"NewDay Apartments provides safe and stable housing for registrants, within the bounds of the law and under the supervision of the Illinois Department of Corrections. NewDay Apartment’s commitment to housing registrants fills an urgent need and makes the community safer by providing stable housing to individuals who are working to rebuild their lives and contribute positively to the community."
Response to Mayor’s Comments/Plan for Park
"The Mayor of Joliet’s suggestion that he will take steps to try to shut down a business operating lawfully within the community is unwarranted and deeply concerning.
Moreover, the Mayor’s suggestion that the City will buy a nearby property and turn it into a park to put the registrants of NewDay in violation of Illinois law is not only troubling, but also will prove to be futile. Most individuals required to register as a sex offender are not subject to the 500-foot restriction referenced by the Mayor. Adding a park within 500 feet of NewDay may change the name of the tenants at NewDay, but it will not stop NewDay from housing registrants there.
Despite previous comments by Joliet public officials, Joliet is not a "dumping ground for Will County communities." The small number of registrants living at Cora St, which has gathered so much attention recently, is minimal when compared to the number of registrants in Joliet and throughout the state of Illinois. In fact, there are more than 30,000 people on the Illinois sex offender registry, and those registrants reside in every community throughout the state."