Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

How would you feel if your neighborhood was repeatedly picked for post prison placement of predatory offenders? January 30, 2013

SERIOUSLY, NOT AGAIN, I thought to myself upon hearing that a Level 3 sex offender is moving into my neighborhood.

This marks the fourth, perhaps fifth, time in recent years (I’ve lost track) that I’ve had to worry about a predatory offender settling within blocks of my Faribault home.

I am not happy. Not happy at all. Who would be?

A city of Faribault snow plow spreading salt and sand onto the street past my house on Monday.

This shows a portion of my Willow Street neighborhood, but not the block in which the offender will be living. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo, January 2012.

I wondered why these particular criminals, those most likely to re-offend, keep choosing my neighborhood. So I posed that question to Faribault Police Chief Andy Bohlen in an e-mail. Captain Neal Pederson of the FPD responded on Bohlen’s behalf:

As to why they often locate on Willow – when offenders are released from prison they work with their supervision agents to find housing. Some owners have fewer qualms about who they rent to than others.

Alright then. Let me ask this to the supervising agents and the accommodating property owners: Would you want to live next door to, or within two blocks of (like me), a man who has served time for criminal sexual contact with male and female victims between the ages of two and 15?

I would be surprised if you answered “yes.”

I know. The man has done his time. But…put yourself in my position and that of my neighbors, many with children in this offender’s target age group. I can count 15 children living within eyesight of my front yard.

Put yourselves in the shoes of the children who will walk past this predator’s home on the way to their Willow Street bus stop (practically within a stone’s throw of the offender’s doorstep) or to the public library or community center just blocks away. How would you feel if you were their parents?

Put yourselves in my neighborhood, in this defined section of Willow Street, which repeatedly has been chosen to house predatory offenders. How would you feel? I bet you’d feel as frustrated and upset as me and my neighbors that your neighborhood is continually singled out for post prison placement of predatory offenders.

I realize my neighbors and I can’t do anything to keep this offender from moving onto our street upon his February 7 release from prison. But we can voice our opinions and concerns and gather information at a community notification meeting slated for 6 p.m. Thursday, January 31, at the Faribault Police Department.

Police department spokesman Pederson assured me that local media, schools and the nearby community center have been notified of the offender’s pending release. The FPD has posted information on its website.

On Monday I received a community alert phone call advising me of the situation and community notification meeting. My neighbor directly across the street did not. I hope my other neighbors got the message. Somehow. I’ll be knocking on a few doors. We as a neighborhood and others in Faribault, including representatives of the bus company, need to attend that meeting with the Minnesota Department of Corrections and local police. We need to become informed.

That is seemingly all we have right now—the power to arm ourselves with information to protect ourselves and our children.

FOR DETAILED INFORMATION on the predatory offender moving into the 300 block of Willow Street in Faribault on February 7, click here to the Minnesota Department of Corrections website.

TO READ A POST about a community notification meeting I attended just two years ago, click here.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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16 Responses to “How would you feel if your neighborhood was repeatedly picked for post prison placement of predatory offenders?”

  1. Jackie Says:

    Such an unsettled feeling, I’m sorry you all have had to put up with this so many times! Yes I would be concerned. Someone with this type of crime should be housed far away from civilization, especially away from children. It doesn’t matter that he’s served his time….He probably isn’t better, they don’t fix these behaviors in prison. ugh….. hope you have a good attendance at the meeting!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I pretty much know what to expect from these meetings as I’ve attended too many. But it’s still important to go and speak up and ask questions and let the powers that be know how we feel.

  2. treadlemusic Says:

    Such a tough issue. The thought crosses my mind that it is curious that so many would be in one area. The possibility of their interaction (“networking”) would greatly increase which might not be the best idea. Just sayin’.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Even though I’ve already received an answer, I plan to ask that question at the meeting: Why so often in our neighborhood? I would like an answer stated verbally to me and my neighbors.

      There must be other options than to continually put my neighborhood through this situation.

      My street is heavily traveled both by motor and foot traffic. And there are more children in the area than the 15 I know.

      • treadlemusic Says:

        Certainly raises the question as to why the homeowners/landlords in your neighborhood are willing to accept these ppl at this level. Very difficult issue especially since the recidivism rate is quite high and certainly higher than one would like in a children’s setting.

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        I wish I knew, too.

  3. Beth Ann Says:

    Tricky one, for sure, Audrey. I don’t know what to tell you—you have done all the due diligence along the way and despite your investment in the issue you still get no answers. I would be on alert if I had children living there, that is for sure, but it is interesting that this area is where they seem to want to relocate repeatedly. On the positive side your neighborhood will know about it and be on alert—-may not make it any easier but knowledge is power and hopefully in this case it is. The Christian part of me wants to think that these people can change but the momma in me definitely wants to protect all those kids.

  4. So frustrating. Our neighborhood also gets its share of “oddballs.” We have three registered sex offenders, but no one that we were specifically warned about. We also have a halfway house about a block away. I think, sadly, it’s part of living in an older neighborhood with quite a few rental properties. Good luck with the meeting.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Wow, three in your neighborhood. In Minnesota, community notification is required by law only for the Level 3 offenders. So, who knows, more offenders may be living among us and at least we are aware of this one.

      A neighbor told me we have a half-way house in our neighborhood. I haven’t verified that, but I don’t have any reason to doubt her. So perhaps this is where he will be living. And, yes, my neighborhood is old with numerous rental properties. But that could apply to many areas of town.

  5. Anna Says:

    Audrey, while we all like to feel that we could be at least charitable towards our fellow man there are some instances where most of us would find this impossible, such as this situation. I see that Minnesota has Residency Laws as to the distance of places of residence to where there are children. I would be measuring out the distance of his residence from any place where there might be children, even if they are visiting a next door neighbour, and so be armed with information at the meeting. Good luck.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Anna, I was not aware of this distance from children criteria. Could you direct me specifically to that statue so that I can research it? The other issue is that we know this man is moving into the 300 block, but are not told specifically which house.

  6. Anna Says:

    http://www.cga.ct.gov/2007/rpt/2007-R-0380.htm

    There is also some interesting information at this site:

    rokolawcom/Articles/Minnesota-Residency-Restrictions-for-Sex-Offenders.shtml

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thanks for the links, Anna. I checked them out and from what I gather, there are no restrictions written in to law, but restrictions can be applied on a case-by-case basis on release conditions.

      Here’s information I also found on the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center website in a Q & A format:

      Q) A sex offender moved close to my child’s school. Aren’t they supposed to stay a certain distance away from places with children?

      A) Minnesota does not have residency restriction laws; there is no hard-and-fast rule about where sex offenders can live once they’re released. However, the committee that assigns risk levels to offenders being released can require offenders on a case-by-case basis to have no contact with children, refrain from using social networking sites, or other restrictions, depending on that offender’s history.

  7. Carstens Says:

    Hi Audrey,
    I worked in a south Minneapolis neighborhood that had a large number of sex offenders resettled there. The neighbors attended the meetings so that there was a clear message that they paid attention to what was happening. They also organized to have parents wait at bus stops with the kids, keep an eye out on the playground, etc. It’s a low-income neighborhood with lots of rental housing, so this will always be an issue there. But the families I saw did a good job of letting the offenders know that they were being watched and that people cared what happened. The more you can let your neighbors know who the offenders are, when the meetings are being held, and create systems to keep each other informed, the better it will be. So sorry you have to fight this fight.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I just attended the notification meeting tonight and came home with extra copies of information because NONE of the parents from my neighborhood with preschool or school-age children attended. I was extremely disappointed because they are the ones who should be especially concerned. I personally talked to three of these neighbors this week, so they were aware of tonight’s community notification meeting. Knowledge is power in my opinion.

      No one from the school bus company or the school district attended either. And there is a bus stop in the same block where this offender will be living.

      I also expressed frustration that my neighborhood seems to be singled out for relocation of these offenders. Basically I was told that these Willow Street property owners are willing to rent to the offenders, so they move here. (Same answer I got from the Faribault Police Department earlier.) But how are they finding these property owners? I don’t think from reading the classifieds. That’s the answer I didn’t really get.

      However, I now am aware that if this offender so much as waves at a child, he’s back to prison. I hope that’s all it takes and not something more serious, like re-offending.


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