As summer heats up, reminders on keeping kids safe from predators
An alert community generally is a safer community.
That is the message delivered by local and state law enforcement at a public meeting in February, after a Level 3 sex offender relocated to the area.
“All sex offenders are predatory offenders, but not all predatory offenders are sex offenders,” Brad VanderVegt, Minnesota Department of Corrections Community Notification Coordinator, said at the Feb. 18 meeting at the old Perham High School auditorium.
With weather heating up and stay-at-home measures being relaxed, it is a good time to remind families how to keep their kids safe.
A predatory offender is anyone who has been convicted of sexual criminal conduct, kidnapping, or false imprisonment, VanderVegt said at the meeting. However, not everyone who has committed these crimes is reported, charged and convicted of the crime. Offenders are only those who have been convicted and sentenced for these crimes.
The state of Minnesota sentences convicted offenders for the crime that they committed, meaning that all of those who have been convicted serve the same sentence, then assigned one of 3 risk levels.
Level 1 offenders are at the lowest risk level. Only law enforcement and victims of the crime are notified of their presence in a community.
Level 2 offenders: Relevant agencies and organizations will also be notified of the offender’s presence, according to Minn. Statutes 244.052.
Only with high-risk Level 3 offenders will the public be notified of their presence. The public would not be notified only if it was in the best interest of public safety not to do so.
Risk levels assigned to offenders by the state End-of-Confinement Review Committee are dynamic and can change over the course of the offender’s registration. Generally, if a registered offender follows all of the requirements of registration as stated in Minn Statutes 243.166 they will only be required to register for 10 years. However, failure to register is an automatic felony and they are required to serve more time and be registered for a longer compounding period, VanderVegt said.
There are no residential restrictions in the state of Minnesota on where registered offenders are allowed to live or exist, VanderVegt said. They also are allowed to move, and must register with local law enforcement when they do.
VanderVegt presented information from the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center (JWRC) and state government sources at the meeting. He presented what he called the “3 90% and the 2 R’s.”
The 2 R’s are relationships and residence: Relationships are more likely to be exploited than an offender’s place of residence.
VanderVegt’s 3 90%:
90% of offenders that go through the system do not repeat the crime that they were sentenced for.
90% of those sentenced offenders already knew their victim prior to the offense.
90% of those who have committed the crime are completely unknown to law enforcement.
VenderVegt’s relationships vs. residence:
90% of offenders knew their victim.
7% were strangers, which the state of Minnesota defines as someone who a person has known for less than 24 hours.
3% of offenders were completely unknown to the victim.
According to VanderVegt and JWRC a big part of being safe and protecting those vulnerable to predators, such as children, is being aware of who is around them, who they trust, and having age-appropriate conversations about who is a stranger and how to stay safe.
Parents should know the Top 5 adults who their kids trust enough to go to if they have a problem, according to the JWRC. Parents should make a point to know those people.
Victim age breakdown by VandeVegt:
0-12 years old: 33%
13-17 years old: 33%
The important thing for all residents to remember is that they should remain relaxed but aware of their surroundings when they are out.
Community resources on safety education
- Someplace Safe Perham: someplacesafe.info
- Stop it Now! stopitnow.org
- Jacob Wetterling Resource Center: jwrc.org
- National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: missingkids.org
- Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault: mncasa.org