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04-02-03: Sheriff's office keeping a close eye on park activity
The Daily Standard

    The Mercer County Sheriff's Office will begin patrolling selected area parks in the coming weeks as a means of cracking down on illegal sexual activity.
    Deputies plan to target Eden Haven Park on Hellwarth Road, Bunge Park on Ohio 29 West and West Bank Park off West Bank Road.
    Sheriff Jeff Grey reported his office has received numerous complaints in the past regarding people being approached there and solicited for sex
    "If offenders move to other parks, you can be sure we will follow," Grey told The Daily Standard. "Parks are for everyone to enjoy. They are not playgrounds for a certain segment of the population."
    There have been no allegations of violence to date. However, area residents have reported being approached while at the parks for picnics, family outings or during visits simply to enjoy the scenery last summer and fall.
    Undercover detectives visited the parks on a random basis last year and ended up being propositioned on more than one occasion. The offenders ultimately received more than they bargained for - disorderly conduct citations.
    "We have an obligation to tell the public what has been happening and an even stronger obligation to stop such activity in the first place," Grey added. "The time is right with nice weather returning and people looking forward to visiting parks."
    Offenders have devised their own code to communicate with interested parties, according to the sheriff. It reportedly involves the use of headlights and/or taillights in a certain pattern.
    "Parents shouldn't have to worry about sending their kids to the restroom or what kind of activity they might stumble upon," Grey said.
    The sheriff has spoken with Grand Lake State Park officials. They, too, are in agreement that something needs to be done. Both jurisdictions will handle patrols at West Bank, which is part of the state park system. Eden Haven and Bunge are county parks.
    Offenders can be charged with one of two offenses - disorderly conduct, a minor misdemeanor, or importuning, a first-degree misdemeanor. The latter violation involves soliciting a person of the same sex to engage in sexual activity.
    Someone convicted of disorderly conduct faces a maximum $100 fine while an importuning conviction carries the possibility of a $1,000 fine and a six-month jail sentence.
    The sheriff asks anyone who is approached or who witnesses suspicious activity to contact his office at 419-586-7724. Information including license plate numbers and physical descriptions is helpful.


Phone: (419)586-2371,   Fax: (419)586-6271
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The Standard Printing Company
P.O. Box 140, Celina, OH 45822