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|04-02-03: Sheriff's office keeping a close eye on park
|By MARGIE WUEBKER
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
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
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
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.
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