Mayor Bob O’Dekirk announced Tuesday that the city will create a park within 500 feet of an apartment building where six sex offenders live in an effort to drive them out.
The city is banking on a state law that bars registered sex offenders from living within 500 feet of a public park.
“This is the first action we’re going to take,” O’Dekirk said at a meeting of the City Council, although he did not say what else may be done.
O’Dekirk said a proposal to buy a house in the Cunningham neighborhood to build the park on the site will come to the council for a vote when it meets Aug. 2.
Two council members at the meeting voiced support for the action, and no one said they opposed it.
The city has been exploring options amid complaints in the Cunningham neighborhood about sex offenders moving into the apartment building in the 1000 block of Cora Street.
“This is a working class neighborhood,” O’Dekirk said. “It is a diverse neighborhood. I think it’s outrageous for a company out of Lake Zurich to do this in Joliet.”
Lake Zurich-based NewDay Apartments, an organization that finds residences for registered sex offenders who face restrictions on where they can live, acquired the Joliet apartment building and moved tenants into it this year.
Cunningham residents in May learned that registered sex offenders had moved into the house and began voicing concerns about a potential threat to children and the impact on the neighborhood. According to O’Dekirk, another has moved into the building.
Cunningham Neighborhood Council President John Sheridan was at the council meeting and commented on the city’s plan.
“I’m not sure NewDay is going to stand still and not do anything,” Sheridan told the council. “But it’s a start.”
Illinois law had barred multiple sex offenders from living in the same building.
But a federal judge ruled the law unconstitutional during an ongoing lawsuit over state residency restrictions that lead to sex offenders staying in prison beyond their sentences because they can’t find a place to live.
According to the Illinois Department of Corrections, about 700 sex offenders are placed in housing by different organizations.
An attorney for NewDay has defended the program, saying residents at the Joliet apartment house are under supervision by the Illinois Department of Corrections, wear GPS monitors, and attend mandatory therapy.