Arrival of registered sex offender in Oakley has neighborhood in an uproar
OAKLEY, Calif. - The arrival of a registered sex offender has an Oakley neighborhood in an uproar.
Residents say they are afraid for their children and feel like prisoners in their homes.
"For 30 nights I have not slept until 4 a.m. because I am awake thinking about what we can do," said Jennifer Curran who lives with her husband, son, and daughter on Fetzer Court.
Across the street is a rental newly occupied by Jeffrey Ray Ward, 52,
"There are 19 children who play on this block, not anymore though," said Curran.
She says her cul-de-sac in the Vintage Parkway neighborhood was especially social, until Ward moved in.
"This person has taken away the family presence here, everyone went in and closed their doors and no one's come back out since."
Now, large banners hand in the front yards of several homes.
"Protect Your Kids!" they declare followed by the web address meganslaw.ca.gov.
The Megan's Law registry is where many of them found out about Ward's past.
In 2002, at age 33, Ward posed as a high school student on the internet, in order to lure underage girls to his Walnut Creek apartment where he gave them alcohol and videotaped them having sex.
He was already on probation for a 1996 statutory rape in Alameda County, and plead no contest to the Contra Costa charges.
"He was charged with 30 felonies, he was convicted of 11, with four victims," said a neighbor, who wished to remain anonymous.
"We are trying to prevent him from obtaining another victim, and the banners are to warn people he's here."
Neighbors have been frustrated to learn Ward is free to live where he chooses.
Sentenced to eight years in prison, he served five, and has been out for more than 15.
"He crossed the line, even if he regrets it, he crossed the line, " said neighbor Brandon Clark, father of three daughters, who spoke in front of Ward's rental.
"People around here are scared, I feel like people are too scared to come and face him."
Ward's shades were drawn, and no one answered the camera-equipped doorbell.
Neighbors say he is rarely seen, except when putting out weekly garbage cans, but has spoken to a few people about his past.
"He said something like it wasn't his fault, he was lured into it," scoffed neighbor Troy Curran.
"I think anybody who's a child predator is a threat and he should not be here, anywhere but here."
Neighbors have appealed to the landlords and their elected officials, with no results.
In a statement Oakley's Police Chief says his mission is protecting the community, "especially the most vulnerable, our children."
Dean Capellitti acknowledges concern about "the recent arrival of a sex registrant" to the neighborhood.
He writes, "we support your cause", noting that kids "should have a safe passageway to and from their school."
Since the route for many passes by Ward's house, parents are already talking about driving their children to school in the fall.
But they hope by then, he will have moved along.
"You can't sell or rent your house because nobody wants to live across from a predator," said Jennifer Curran.
"And why should you have to give up your safe space, why should you have to give up your community?"