A Toledo city housing official with a reputation for zealous enforcement of nuisance laws got credit yesterday for an idea that has begun to move sex offenders away from city schools.
Toledo Law Director John Madigan told a city council committee yesterday that the idea was hatched by Susan Frederick, manager of code enforcement.
Mr. Madigan said the new approach has resulted in at least eight offenders packing their belongings and moving. Three lived within 1,000 feet of Raymer Elementary School in East Toledo.
The city's housing code makes it a misdemeanor for a residence to be used to violate state law. An estimated 200 sex offenders are living illegally close to schools, Mr. Madigan said.
Ms. Frederick was home in July recuperating from injuries suffered while trying to get a vehicle towed when she read about the problem and hit on the idea of using a law that was adopted by council in 2004.
"I was home nursing two broken ankles and I thought, why isn't that a nuisance?" Ms. Frederick said of sexual violators living illegally close to a school. "When I heard how many there were, it sickened me."
Over the last 13 months, Ms. Frederick has been arrested and injured while enforcing nuisance abatement laws. She also has been accused of trying to remove vehicles that were not illegally parked, resulting in the city having to pay $7,500 to settle a lawsuit.
Her injury occurred when she was hit by a trailer driven by a man who was ordered to remove it. Another city worker also was hurt in the incident. The driver was charged with aggravated assault, but the charges were dropped.
Ms. Frederick said her efforts have resulted in 700 illegally parked vehicles being towed in the last year.
To enforce the law against registered sex offenders, Ms. Frederick sends letters to offenders and their landlords, informing them that they are violating the law and must move.
"We've had pretty good results so far," Mr. Madigan told council's law and criminal justice committee yesterday.
Mr. Madigan said the law was written to give the city an extra tool to shut down places where prostitution and drug activity were taking place. He said state laws prohibiting a sex offender living within 1,000 feet of a school were not effective.
Toby Fey, a lawyer for the nonprofit Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, questioned whether the city was overreaching.
"ABLE is concerned that people charged with lesser sexual offenses will be forced to leave their homes," Mr. Fey said.
Of the eight men who have notified the Lucas County Sheriff's Department of their new addresses, five were convicted of offenses involving minor girls and three involving adult victims.
Mayor Carty Finkbeiner issued a statement after the hearing vowing to continue the strategy "until we can say with confidence that there are no sex offenders living within 1,000 feet of any school."
Of the eight offenders who've moved so far, three lived near Raymer, and one each lived near Franklin, Pickett, Stewart, Sherman, and St. Elizabeth Seton elementary schools.