Editor’s note: Some details have been altered to protect the identity of the victim.
When the 11-year-old girl came into Shaun “Rocky” Jaber’s store in September, the Barberton councilman was concerned.
After he heard the child’s story, his concern deepened.
The girl told him a harrowing story. While out on a walk near Lake Anna, she encountered the man who molested her years earlier.
“[The child’s] jaw dropped and she was scared,” Jaber said. “She came in and she was shaking and crying.”
Jaber found out that the man lived downtown near the lake and roamed the track around it frequently. Lake Anna park is popular with residents, and a magnet for young people. Jaber thought it inconceivable that a registered sex offender could live so close to a public park.
“I said, we’ll figure something,” he told the child.
Limiting where sex offenders can reside
Jaber researched the city’s ordinance that limits where sex offenders can reside. The legislation on the books banned offenders from living within 1,000 feet of schools and day care centers.
But nothing prevented them from living near the city’s public parks.
He communicated with Barberton officials and law director Lisa Miller, coming up with a plan to add parks to the city’s ordinance.
Monday night, with the help of Councilwoman Carla Debevec and the unanimous support of council, the city’s sex offender ordinance was amended to add the city’s parks to the list, limiting where offenders can put down roots in Barberton.
“With this new ordinance, it’s very, very limited,” Jaber said Wednesday. “Maybe 25% of Barberton.”
Before, the councilman said, offenders could reside in about 70% of the city.
After the council meeting, Jaber said the child’s parents met him near the city building to celebrate the victory.
“They were waiting for me to come outside the building and they gave me a big hug,” he said.
The councilman hopes the change will help give some peace of mind to victims and provide some protection from sexual predators.
“This will also help women feel safer walking the Towpath,” he said. “It might keep [the offenders] away a little bit.”
Jaber said his research on the issue indicated many attacks occur close to the predators’ place of residence.
If it helps prevent one incident, he said, the change will be successful. He considers it his best work as a councilman.
“This one … meant a lot,” Jaber said. “I was very, very happy to get this one going.”
Leave a message for Alan Ashworth at 330-996-3859 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @newsalanbeaconj.