Yes, this is a story about the law.
In particular, it’s about a law that prohibits child sex offenders from being within 500 feet of a public park or building where children gather. Which is why the city of Aurora on Wednesday sent eviction notices to almost two dozen residents of Wayside Cross Ministries.
It is, however, also a story about the spirit of the law, which is always far more complicated.
For more than 90 years, the people who society tend to deem undesirable, even repugnant, have been allowed to live at this faith-based and well-respected mission in downtown Aurora, where they take part in a Bible-based program that allows them a shot at redemption and rehabilitation.
Police-related matters are not the issue: Even the Aurora Police Department acknowledges Wayside runs a tight ship that has resulted in fewer problems than other areas of the city. Unfortunately, officials had for some time now been misinterpreting the mapping system used to determine the distance between locations and therefore underestimated the feet between Wayside and McCarty Park.
According to Deborah Lang, Aurora’s assistant corporation counsel, when officials realized the mistake, a meeting in late February was held with Wayside to let them know about the error.
Wayside, obviously caught off guard, gave officials a tour of the 47,000-square-foot facility in an effort to argue the sex offenders were actually residing outside the 500-foot limit. And the city left that meeting with the promise to do more research into the issue.
“They had no reason to believe it was all OK,” said Lang. “It was made clear there was a problem and we would get back to them … and then communication fell apart.”
Which, as we all know, leads to problems.
A few weeks after this unresolved sit-down, all hell broke loose when the mission took in ex-con ________ who, though not a child sex offender, was part of one of the most notorious murder cases of the last 30 years in the Chicago area.