A former priest with the unsavory distinction of being the first man of the cloth in the U.S. deemed to be “sexually violent” was released from state custody late last month and has moved into an apartment on the south side of Forest Park.
Fred Lenczycki, 65, was imprisoned in 2004 after pleading guilty to abusing three boys during the early 1980s while serving at St. Isaac Jogues Parish in Hinsdale. Prosecutors, however, have said Lenczycki’s abusive behavior most likely involved some 30 victims. In addition to ministering in suburban Chicago, Lenczycki also worked in California and Missouri during the course of a 25-year career.
That he was categorized as a sexually violent person means Lenczycki must follow more stringent protocols than other sex offenders no longer in state custody. A GPS monitoring device will be attached to him, and every three months he must check in with local law enforcement. Currently, Forest Park is home to 18 registered sex offenders, according to the state’s online database, but Deputy Chief Tom Aftanas said Lenczycki’s case is somewhat exceptional.
“It’s the amount of victims,” Aftanas said. “There were quite a few victims assaulted by Mr. Lenczycki.”
Oddly, 50 percent of the village’s registered sex offenders live within a few blocks of one another. Lenczycki’s new address puts him squarely in the middle of that cluster. The state does help paroled sex offenders find housing, but that assistance is not offered to convicts who’ve completed their sentence, according to a spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Corrections.
“I think part of the reason they’re concentrated in that area is because it’s one of the locations that isn’t next to a school, or a park, or a daycare center that would prohibit them from living there,” Aftanas said.
Officially, Lenczycki was released last month by the state Department of Human Services. A spokesperson for that office, too, said that discharged offenders are not aided in their search for housing.
Lenczycki was sentenced to serve five years in prison, but in April 2006, when he became eligible for parole, Attorney General Lisa Madigan argued to have him detained at a Rushville facility where he could receive sex offender treatment. At the time, 215 sexually violent offenders had been civilly committed under a law enacted in 1998, according to a statement from Madigan’s office.
Lenczycki earned the label of “sexually violent” in 2008 when Madigan convinced a DuPage County jury that it was not safe to release the former priest, and that he should remain in the custody of the Illinois Department of Human Services. On Sept. 22, Lenczycki was discharged from that facility and cleared to continue treatment on an outpatient basis.
Of the 18 registered sex offenders in Forest Park, Lenczycki is the third deemed to be sexually violent. One of those offenders, Benjamin Hernandez, may no longer be living in the community. Aftanas said that Hernandez has failed to notify police of his current address. The state lists Hernandez as “non-compliant” with registration guidelines, which is a felony.
Coincidentally, the third sexually violent person registered in Forest Park is living in the exact apartment once occupied by Hernandez.
The neighborhood in which sex offenders in Forest Park are most prevalent is bound by Desplaines Avenue to the west and Hannah Avenue to the east. Along the 1100 block of Lathrop, Dunlop and Hannah are six of the village’s registered offenders. Two others reside on the 1000 block of Desplaines and another lives on the 7700 block of Taylor.
A smaller cluster of three registered sex offenders live on the 500 block of Desplaines.
As a matter of course, police officers give extra attention to these parts of town, said Aftanas. The deputy chief could not recall ever taking a registered offender into custody for behaving inappropriately, and only occasionally have offenders failed to comply with the terms of their release.
“It’s not often,” Aftanas said of cases like Hernandez’s. “We have two currently, right now. Most of them know it’s part of their sentence.”
District 91 Lou Cavallo said he was notified of Lenczycki’s arrival in Forest Park, as is required by law. However, news coverage of the pedophile priest’s release raised the profile of the case, and Cavallo said he received a phone call from village officials when the Chicago Tribune reported that Lenczycki was headed to Forest Park. Flyers were distributed to building principals and staff.
“To my knowledge, not since I’ve been here, have we had a problem with registered sex offenders trying to gain access to school grounds or being around school property,” Cavallo said.
At the park district campus on Harrison – roughly a half-mile from Lenczycki’s apartment – Executive Director Larry Piekarz said that regardless of the nature of any potential threat, local police have protected the area well. Piekarz, too, received notification of Lenczycki’s arrival in town, but said he could not recall ever having an incident with any registered sex offender at the park.