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