Phil Trexler

Some residents of a West Akron neighborhood are alarmed that a mentally challenged sex offender has been placed in a group home on their street.

The 20-year-old man was convicted last year on a felony charge of unlawful sexual contact with a minor and was labeled a Tier II sexual offender. He is required to register his address for the next 25 years.

The girl was an ex-girlfriend, about five years his junior, according to court records.

This month, he moved into a group home on Judith Avenue, a small street that runs parallel to Sand Run Road on Akron’s western edge.

Residents were alerted to the new neighbor by the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, in accordance with Ohio’s sex offender registration law. Authorities said the man is not breaking the law by living in the home.

The alert prompted neighbors Constantine Tos­cidis, a father of two, with a home on Judith Avenue, and Michelle Garro, a mother of two, who lives on adjoining Wyndham Road, to organize a community meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Northwest Akron library branch on Shatto Avenue.

The meeting is being held to inform residents, discuss options and, according to Garro, “get this man removed from our neighborhood.”

The neighbors blame the Summit County Developmental Disabilities Board for placing the man in the group home on a residential street where children abound and a small private day-care facility is operated out of a home.

“We’re OK with the group home itself,” Garro said. “I think [the board] had an obligation to check the environment that they put him in. This is clearly not the best environment for him or for us. He clearly has boundary issues.”

Toscidis learned of the sex offender’s presence through a sheriff’s email, notifying residents of his presence. He is concerned with the Summit board’s role in helping to place the offender in the group home, which is owned and operated by REM Ohio, and what if any vetting process took place.

He is also worried about the safety of his children, ages 9 and 7, and the other children in the neighborhood.

“Like any community that has a sex offender who moves in, we’re not happy with the situation,” Toscidis said. “I understand that there may be legalities involved with him or any sex offender being able to choose where they want to live.

“But the issue with this one is I don’t know how much choice he had — given that he’s working with an agency that essentially places him in this location. And given the nature of his offenses, and given how recently they’ve occurred, I’m not sure that placement was done in a proper manner.”

The sex offender was convicted less than a year ago in Common Pleas Court and sentenced to 60 days in jail and given two years of probation. The case stems from an incident with a teenage girl in Barberton in January 2011.

The girl, 14, claimed the man, then 19, raped her. He claimed it was consensual and that they had briefly dated in the past. He wound up pleading guilty.

Residents on Judith Avenue point to two other police reports in which the man was sexually aggressive with two other teenage girls. He was never charged in those cases.

Garro and Toscidis said they are concerned that the man poses a threat to their children and other kids in the neighborhood.

“I think there are better areas to place individuals who have certain tendencies and propensities with younger kids,” Toscidis said. “Don’t put him in a community that has young kids running around.”

Efforts to reach the offender were not successful Thursday.

Carla Parker, executive director of REM Ohio, issued a statement saying that law enforcement and court officials have approved the man’s placement in the home.

“All individuals served by our organization have been deemed appropriate for community-based services and have service plans in place to meet their individual needs,” Parker said.

Billie Jo David, a spokeswoman for the developmental disabilities board, said privacy laws preclude her from discussing the sex offender’s specific case. However, she said the placement was cleared with county probation officials.

In general terms, she said, the agency only helps coordinate client placement with private companies that own and operate the facilities, such as Akron-based REM Ohio. The homes are staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Funding is provided by state and county money.

The county agency helps provide residential funding for 515 individuals who live in home settings. David said the agency cannot dictate where clients live. Instead, a team composed of guardians, advocates, service coordinators and, when needed, probation officers, meet to help determine a placement.

“We don’t place the individual, we don’t move the individual out,” David said. “Each individual has a free choice of provider.”

David said the agency would help facilitate a meeting between REM Ohio and residents.

“I would say to the neighbors to assure that each person who receives services in any group home setting are there to be good neighbors and live independently in the community in most least-restricted environment,” she said.

Phil Trexler can be reached at 330-996-3717 or ptrexler@thebeaconjournal.com.