Residents protest against high-risk sex offender in the neighbourhood
Published Sunday, August 23, 2015 6:27PM PDT
Last Updated Sunday, August 23, 2015 7:25PM PDT
Dozens of Abbotsford residents took to the streets on Sunday, protesting against a convicted child molester now living next door.
Signs reading “Protect Our Neighbourhood”, “Keep Our Children Safe”, and “Predators Not Welcome” were carried by children and adults alike as neighbours marched to high-risk sex offender James Conway’s home.
“It’s uncomfortable. When we can see him sitting on the patio and he can look into our front yard, you don’t feel safe anymore,” says neighbour Kim Iverson, mother of three. “Placing these people that are sick in neighbourhoods with children and families…is not helping. The community is on guard now.”
“We don't feel this is the appropriate place for what is in essence a halfway house,” adds Sarah Bertrand, speaking over blaring air horns and chants of “go away Conway.” “This is not a good place to have those types of people hanging around.”
Abbotsford police issued a public notification on Aug. 1, alerting residents that 40-year-old Conway had moved into the area.
Conway has an extensive criminal history, including multiple convictions for sexual assault, sexual interference, arson, mischief and failure to comply with court order and breach of recognizance.
Abbotsford police say keeping an eye on him is a top priority, and are concerned for more reasons than one: some people have thrown eggs and rocks at Conway’s house.
“I totally understand why area residents wouldn’t want him to be their neighbour, but he’s under rather stringent conditions," says MacDonald. "For all intents and purpose he’s under house arrest.”
Conway has a 24/7 electronic monitor, a live-in caregiver, and is not allowed out of the house unless it’s for a prescribed purpose, says MacDonald, noting that none of his 22 restrictions have been broken since he moved to Abbotsford.
But residents are still frustrated Conway is living in the area - especially since he’s breached his conditions before.
In April 2014, Transit Police arrested him for violating court orders after he allegedly looked down young girls’ shirts on the SkyTrain, and used a teddy bear to try and talk to them.
He was also taken back into custody nine days after being released from prison last February after allegedly sitting next to a 14-year-old girl on a Surrey bus.
Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun says he has no choice in what community Conway chooses to live in, but that there may be another way to force him out.
“I have asked our staff to look at our zoning bylaws because there are two people in the house plus a caretaker,” says Braun. “That sounds very similar to the definition of a recovery house and if that's the case, it's not zoned for that use.”
“I believe everybody gets a second chance,” he adds. “But when you blow your second and third chance, there's a part of me that asks so why is he out period?”
With files from CTV Vancouver's Michele Brunoro