VCPD Addresses Concerns on City Park

Ashley Limesand
Staff Writer

Following an announcement on Tuesday, May 15 from the Valley City Police Department that a sex offender registered as homeless would now be living in Valley City with a registered address of City Park citizens began to worry about the safety of City Park.
Valley City Police Chief Phil Hatcher responds to these concerns, stating, "The Attorney General requires me to register some place. We registered him. He said City Park.
"I can't be discriminatory," Hatcher states, explaining that he is bound by what is legal and that there is not a city ordinance or specific rule he knows of that specifically says the individual cannot be in City Park.
"Did I cringe when he said he was living in City Park, yes, but when I look at the laws and different things that we have in place, could I say you can't live there without being discriminatory? I couldn't so I had to allow it."
Hatcher explains that according to the Attorney General's office statewide restrictions for sex offenders are on an individual basis based on risk level. If labeled with a minimum risk level there are minimal restrictions, and with permission from the superintendent and certain restrictive guidelines, an offender may even be allowed to attend a school function if they are a parent of a student.
A high risk offender, on the other hand, isn't allowed to live within 500 feet of a certified pre-school, elementary school, junior high school, or senior high school. This restriction does not include daycares or parks.
Gant, a 5'11', 177 pound, black male, born in 1977 with brown eyes and black hair, who was convicted of aggravated rape in 2003 for entering a residence with two other individuals through a bedroom window and raping a developmentally disabled teenager that was sleeping in her bedroom, therefore at the time of registration had no legal reason not to be in the park.
Gant is not wanted by law enforcement at this time and has served the sentence imposed by the court. Any use of this information to threaten, assault, or intimidate the offender will result in prosecution.
While the offender, Larry Gant, also known as Larry Johnson Jr., registered on Tuesday, on Wednesday, Hatcher says he was informed by the Park Board that they do not allow overnight campers in any of the public parks.
Tyler Jacobson, Director of Valley City Parks and Recreation, states on the situation, "We have been working closely with the law enforcement to make sure they understand our policies and enforce them."
Hatcher assures the T-R that officers are watching the area throughout the evening and are walking through the park, but that in discussions with the offender, Gant, claims he never slept in the park despite the fact that a tent was spotted.
Hatcher says they are working closely with Gant to help him find employment and a more permanent place to reside so that the offender can register a more permanent address.
As for the miscommunication on the regulations of the park in reference to overnight camping, Hatcher stated that further clarification and specific language guiding him legally might be something to consider.
Hatcher says this is a good time to remember that it is always important to reiterate personal safety when dealing with strangers.
"There are other offenders in our community," he concludes, "We need to be careful all the time and we need to keep track of our kids.
"This doesn't mean that you can't use the City Park or that Valley City isn't a safe place to be. I still think it is."