First reported 11/25/2009 2:53 p.m.
Next to an apartment building that’s home to one of the state’s most prolific child predators, village officials are building a small playground for neighborhood children. State laws, however, will force this convicted sex offender – and at least one other in the area – to find another place to live.
Former priest and convicted pedophile Fred Lenczycki moved into an apartment building on the 1100 block of Lathrop after he was released from state custody Sept. 22. He is the first clergyman in the U.S. deemed to be “sexually violent,” and was responsible for molesting more than 30 victims, according to prosecutors. Lenczycki, 65, was imprisoned in 2004 after pleading guilty to abusing three boys during the early 1980s while serving a parish in Hinsdale.
During his 25-year career with the church, Lenczycki also ministered in California and Missouri.
In 2008, Attorney General Lisa Madigan convinced a DuPage County jury it was not safe to release Lenczycki, and he was remanded to an Illinois Department of Human Services facility to receive treatment. Among the conditions of his release, Lenczycki must continue treatment on an outpatient basis.
As is the case with all sex offenders whose crimes were committed against children, Lenczycki is not allowed to live within 500 feet of a playground. On Nov. 23, two months after Lenczycki took up residence in Forest Park, the village council voted unanimously to designate a small 35-foot by 70-foot patch of grass at 1138 Lathrop as a playground.
Lenczycki’s apartment borders the lot.
There was no public discussion of the decision by council members.
“I wouldn’t call this a backdoor way to get him to move,” said Commissioner Marty Tellalian, who oversees the maintenance and creation of such parks. “We’re free to improve our parks and we don’t have to consider any inconvenience to sex offenders.”
The municipality bought the land in 2001 when it was occupied by a crumbling building. That structure was demolished and several years later a pair of benches and some sod installed. Village Administrator Tim Gillian said it has always been the intention of the council to create a small park there. The timing may appear curious, he acknowledged, but it took a member of the police department to call attention to the presence of several sex offenders in the area. Village officials then started looking into whether children might be at risk by visiting the proposed park.
“Let’s potentially put this project on hold and do some research,” Gillian said of the consensus at village hall.
After consulting with state officials and reviewing statutes related to sex offenders, the municipality learned that child predators in the area would have to move.
Deputy Police Chief Tom Aftanas said the department is still working to identify exactly who would be displaced by the new playground, but an initial review has turned up one other child predator who lives across the street from Lenczycki. That individual has also been deemed “sexually violent.”
In early October when Lenczycki’s release made headlines across the region, the Review reported that an unusual concentration of the sex offenders living in Forest Park resided in that neighborhood. Of the 18 registered sex offenders with a Forest Park address on Oct. 1, six lived on the 1100 blocks of Lathrop, Dunlop and Hannah.
As of Nov. 24, according to the state’s online registry, only four of these individuals remain in those neighborhoods. The recent arrest of one sex offender accused of failing to notify authorities of his whereabouts brings the total number of offenders in Forest Park to 14.
Reached at his apartment, Lenczycki declined a reporter’s request for comment on the village’s decision to install the playground.
Nancy Gray lives in a single-family home just up the street from where the park is to be located, and said she is very unhappy with the number of sex offenders in her area. At least several times a week she is visited by her grandchildren, she said. Gray was not aware of the village’s plan to build the playground, but said she knew of the former priest.
“If the park is going in and it forces that guy to move, that’s great,” Gray said.
Tellalian said the equipment for the playground has already been ordered and should be installed in December.
The state law is silent on how quickly the village can force the eviction of any child predators in the area, but those affected will likely be given 30 days.
“They may move from that area and move to another area in Forest Park,” Aftanas said. “I don’t know where they’ll move.”