British Columbia

Sex offender James Conway's move into Abbotsford upsets neighbours

Residents in an Abbotsford, B.C. neighbourhood are upset a sex offender with a history of assaulting young girls has moved into their community.

'I don't let the kids run in the front yard much any more,' says one concerned mother

Residents in an Abbotsford, B.C. neighbourhood are upset James Conway, a 40-year-old sex offender, has moved into their community. (Abbotsford Police)

Abbotsford police are cautioning residents against resorting to vigilantism as they protest the arrival of convicted sex offender, James Conway, into their B.C. neighbourhood.

Const. Ian MacDonald told CBC News that, while he understands the position of residents, police cannot condone actions such as the public posting of Conway's address on signs on local streets.

"I believe their intention is to pressure him, or to pressure others, to have him removed from the neighbourhood, but obviously there could be unintended consequences...damage to the property, or threats made to persons on the property, or take things even [further]."

Conway, 40, has been convicted three times for sexual offences perpetrated against children. He also has other convictions for arson, mischief and violating the terms of his release.

Kim Iverson says since she found out a convicted sex offender moved in across the street, she's been keeping a close eye on the neighbourhood. She said she's seen Conway sitting on his patio which faces her front yard.

"I don't let the kids run in the front yard much anymore," she said. "There's just an unsettling feeling knowing that he's there. It's scary."

Conway was released earlier this year with a long list of court-ordered conditions, including round-the-clock monitoring, and moved to Abbotsford at the beginning of the month.  

'We want him to feel uncomfortable': upset neighbour

Micheal Vonn, a lawyer with the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said it's important to remember that people who have been released from prison have a right to rejoin a community. 

"At some point we need to, if we're going to create public safety, have a successful reintegration," she said. 

But that reintegration shouldn't happen in family-friendly neighbourhoods, said another upset resident Cherry Groves. She has written a letter in protest to Abbotsford's mayor and police chief as well as B.C.'s justice minister.

"He's in the wrong place. You don't put a repeat offender on a street with young kids," she said. "There are three of four families living on the street with young girls and there he is right in the midst."

Some of the upset residents plan to hold a rally against Conway on Aug. 23. 

"We want him to move. We want him to feel uncomfortable and we want him to know he's not welcome in our neighbourhood," said Iverson. 

Conway was also the subject of a public notice from Delta police in April when he moved to that community.

According to B.C. Corrections, Conway has "maintained a versatile pattern of sexual offending against female children in a predatory and opportunistic manner."

Conway was released in February but was taken back into custody after allegedly violating the terms of his release by sitting next to a teenage girl on a TransLink bus.

Conway's court-ordered conditions

The City of Abbotsford does not have an official position on Conway, said deputy mayor Patricia Ross. 

"Personally I share the concerns of the community, but ultimately this is B.C. Corrections' call," she said. "Unfortunately the city's involvement is very limited."

In the meantime, police say their focus is ensuring Conway adheres to his many conditions. 

Here is a list of those conditions:

  • He is not allowed to leave his residence except when in the company of an approved individual and for an approved purpose. He is also electronically monitored 24/7. 
  • He cannot engage in any activity that involves contact with people under 18 years of age, including electronic communication. 
  • He cannot go to any park, playground, school yard, daycare centre, community centre or public swimming area or any other site which offers activities for children. 
  • He cannot go to any establishment where alcohol is the primary commodity for sale. 
  • He cannot wear or possess uniforms, including but not limited to, police, fire, corrections, search and rescue, security guard, nurse or any patch or insignia that represents these occupations.
  • He cannot use public transit unless accompanied by an approved adult. 
  • He cannot consume alcohol, intoxicants or non-prescription drugs. 
  • He cannot possess any weapons, firearms, imitation firearms, ammunition or explosives. The only exception is kitchen knives. 

With files from Stephanie Mercier and Jesse Johnston

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