Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Level 3 Sex Offender Down the Road?

I'll be back with another post, later in the day. Meanwhile, there's something in the news.

Local News and the Released Sex Offender

Some of the Melrose Beacon's headlines this week:
  • "Fire departments called to straw bale fire"
  • " 'For the Love of Kids!'" about a Fishing Derby
  • "Meeting will inform city of sex offender's arrival"
The Sauk Centre Herald's headline about the release is "Level 3 sex offender coming to Melrose."

According to the Beacon, "Douglas James Felix, 36, is scheduled to be released from the Department of Corrections on March 5, and has listed Rose Park in Melrose as his intended destination upon release."

The Melrose Beacon discusses a fact sheet about Mr. Felix. Besides pointing out that Mr. Felix isn't wanted by the police and was legally released, it says that "Abuse of this information to threaten, harass or intimidate a registered offender is unacceptable and such acts could be charged as a crime." The Beacon also says the fact sheet "noted that such abuse of the information could result in the end of the notification laws."

Official Views of Sex Offenders

As a Level Three Sex Offender, Mr. Felix has been identified as belonging to the most-likely-to-reoffend club.

I sincerely hope that nobody is impolite to Mr. Felix. It's nice that Minnesota lets Minnesotans know when sex offenders are going to be released, and where they say they're going to live. The state even provides "Offender Information" pages online. That link is to Mr. Felix's.

Mr. Felix's offense is described as "CSC 1-NO FRC-OTH FAM-13-15-F" - happily, the MN-DOC provides a translation: "Criminal Sexual Conduct ... No Force ... [against] Other Family" - the victim was a teenage girl, between 13 and 15. (The Sauk Centre Herald fleshed that out: "According to police reports, Felix has a history of sexual contact with juvenile females ages 11 to 15.")

A state of Minnesota publication says: "Compared to other offenders, sex offenders are less likely to recidivate in general, but are still more likely to reoffend with a sex crime."1 I also sincerely hope that Mr. Felix has reconsidered his priorities, is among the 96%-plus of sex offenders who don't reoffend1 - and that the experts are right.

Small Town America and the Released Sex Offender

Melrose is only ten miles down the road from Sauk Centre, where I live. Aside from neighborly concern, I've got a family here. That makes me very aware of what's going on.

We've heard about laws that states and communities pass, saying that sex offenders can't live within a certain distance of schools or parks: 500 feet, 2500 feet, whatever. Working with a law like that would be quite a trick in a place like Melrose. The whole town is about a mile (5280 feet) across.

Melrose, Minnesota:

View Larger Map

I doubt that Melrose has any laws or ordinances like that. The Beacon article said that only a few Level One Sex Offenders live there town at this point.

Anyway, 'distance' laws are based on assumptions that may not be true. A State of Minnesota publication2 says that assaults are likely to happen more than a mile, and less than 20 miles, from the caught-and-released offender's home.

That would make Melrose relatively safe, but puts my town near the middle of the potential target zone. I can't say that I'm happy about that.

There's not much for people to do in whatever area Mr. Felix decides to live, other than find out what he looks like and see to it that he isn't tempted by being left alone with teenage girls. (There's a rather unflattering couple of photos on the MN-DOC information page)

That, and behave ourselves, so that the state keeps giving us a heads-up when sex offenders are released.
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1 "Sex Offender Recidivism in Minnesota April 2007" Minnesota Department of corrections

2 "Residential Proximity & Sex Offense Recidivism in Minnesota April 2007" Minnesota Department of corrections

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