Eight high-level sex offenders are settling in St. Paul. There’s a small cluster in the University-Dale area, a few others on the East Side, and another further west, closer to Lexington and Hamline.
Residents took this as fairly upsetting news—and justifiably so. One of the offenders broke into the home of a complete stranger, threatened her with a “weapon” (reports don’t say what it was), and proceeded to rape her. Another has a history of keeping child porn on his computer. A third forced himself on a teenage girl.
The only reason we’re hearing about this is because all eight are classified as Level 3 offenders: the category most likely to reoffend. As corrections personnel told KSTP, that’s still not very likely. About 90 percent don’t, they said. Neighborhoods just have the statutory right to know when one moves in nearby.
Still, not everyone is taking this in stride.
“This is disgusting!” a commenter said on KSTP’s Facebook post. “Why would you let them out! A child’s safety is not worth it!!”
“Why can’t we just off these kind of people?” another asked.
“Sex offenders CANNOT be rehabilitated!” a third said. “Off them ALL!!”
This may be alarming news for some. But it’s not that unusual, according to Mark Bliven of the Minnesota Department of Corrections. The overall number of sex offenders in Minnesota has remained pretty constant over the past few years.
“I think what we often find is people move in and out,” he says. Some may be freshly released from prison, but others may be finding a new place within the city to live. And when offenders move, they look for places they can afford, often near accessible transportation. That’s why a few have clustered in the University-Dale area.
Of the eight, only six are under close supervision. The others are free to live and work where they want to, as long as the community knows they’re there. In fact, it’s only been since the late ’90s or so that giving residents a heads-up has been part of the deal.
If you still find you’re upset at the prospect of living near a sex offender, there’s little but cold comfort available for you on the St. Paul Police Department’s website.
“Convicted sex offenders have always been released to live in our communities,” the website says. According to the Minnesota Department of Corrections, 61 “predatory offenders” are currently living in St. Paul—including people who have a history of sexually assaulting preteen girls, and one who attempted to lure a 6-year-old into a car with “treats and money.”
But as a few commenters on KSTP pointed out, we already live among a bevy of offenders who have never been caught. Less than 1 percent of all rapes actually end in convictions. The only difference with these eight is we know their names and faces.