ROCHESTER — City officials say there is no indication anyone who uses the Community Center should feel unsafe despite signs an anonymous person posted there claiming a sex offender is "in our midst."
"It has come to our attention that at the Rochester Community Center we have a level 3 sex offender with a child under 13," says a sign posted in a first-floor stairwell at the center on Wakefield Street.
The sign does not specify whether the alleged sex offender is an employee of one of the many organizations that rent space at the facility. It is also unclear who posted the signs; the person gives no name, but provided an e-mail address for those wishing to provide "ideas, comments or solutions."
However, several e-mails sent to the address by a Foster's Daily Democrat reporter went unanswered this week.
City Manager John Scruton said no one he has spoken to has any idea who the sign references or who posted it, but said it may have resulted from a personal issue.
"It appears to be a personal vendetta against a particular individual and we have no idea who it's against," he said.
Scruton has discussed the matter with other officials, including Superintendent Mike Hopkins, whose office is in the center. He said he does not believe safety is a concern because younger children who use the center are normally "closely supervised."
The sign said that, "At any given time there are 5-10 children alone in these long windy hallways," but Scruton said children would be more closely supervised in the center's hallways than they would be if they just walked down any given street in the city.
"I don't see unsupervised children" at the center, he said, but did add, "There are probably periods of the day when children are less closely supervised."
Police are aware of the posted sign, but said there is no indication anyone at the center is breaking the law or poses an immediate danger.
"What was brought to our attention was a posting put up in the Community Center," said Lt. Anthony Triano. "We monitor all registered sex offenders in the city and we're not aware of anybody in violation."
Triano said a registered sex offender at the center would only be doing something illegal if a court ordered him or her to stay a certain distance from schools or children.
"We're not aware of any problems or concerns," Triano said, adding no one has made complaints besides the anonymous person who posted the sign and police do not intend to attempt to contact that person because they do not believe there is a real problem.
Scruton said the sign "almost sounds like vigilante justice" and people should not be able to post whatever messages they want in the center. He took issue with the creator of the sign "jumping to the conclusion" that a sex offender will commit a sex crime again, even though the purpose of the criminal justice system is reformation.
"That's the bottom line — unless the court placed stipulations on a person that restricted them from public places, then they have as much right to be there as anyone else," Scruton said. "We track all sex offenders (in the city)... that doesn't mean all of their rights in the future are taken away."
Unlike Dover, Rochester has no ordinance restricting where sex offenders can go. Dover's ordinance prohibits registered sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet from a school or day care center. The ordinance still stands despite it being challenged in court. Scruton said he believes such an ordinance is not only unconstitutional, but would also be very difficult to enforce.
"We will continue to monitor (the situation), but we've also always been concerned (with safety)... it's been a long-standing policy to keep everybody safe — not just children," he said.
The Community Center houses a large number of organizations, including the School Department, Health and Human Services, the Community Action Program, the Recreation Department, Economic Development, Girl's Inc., Head Start, Arts Rochester, the Bud Carlson Academy and Gerry's Food Pantry.
Public Works Commissioner Melodie Esterberg said no city employees at the Community Center are registered sex offenders. She said the city runs criminal records checks during the hiring process and is especially mindful when hiring people who will work in the center due to the number of young people who use the facility. ..Source.. by JOEY CRESTA