Who’s afraid of the Boogeyman?
I covered the public information meeting in Bricelyn last Tuesday, about a Level 3 sex offender now living in that small Faribault County town.
It was not the first one of those I have covered and written about. Since the late 1990s I have attended quite a few.
They are usually about the same. A person from the Minnesota Department of Corrections tells the background of the person, what he did, the time he served, etc. They also tell about the sex offender registering and monitoring system and how it works.
Local law enforcement officials, who are actually hosting the meeting, also speak. They give details about the way they monitor the person in question.
And then they open it up to public questions, and there are usually quite a few and almost always they are the same.
Why are you putting this person in our nice town, they ask. Why is he allowed to roam around free when we have children in our community? Can we refuse to have him live here? What can we do about this?
Sometimes the citizens are quite angry and very upset. Especially when they hear the answers are that there is very little they can do. The offender has served his time and has a right to live where he wants, be employed, go shopping, go places in the community and generally have a life.
They are told not to harass the individual, or else it is themselves who will get into trouble with law enforcement.
I can’t say as I blame community members for being upset.
Sheriff’s officials say they are not the ones who place anyone here, but when they are alerted that a Level 3 offender has moved here, the law enforcement officials are allowed by state law to alert the public. They do it by telling the media and holding a public informational meeting, like the one last week in Bricelyn.
However, they are not allowed to do it with a Level 1 or Level 2 offender.
We now have five Level 3 offenders living in Faribault County. That is more than any county around us. Martin County has two and Freeborn County three.
But if you tally all of the offenders who have to register with the state, Faribault County has 51, but other counties have more than that. Martin County has 103, for instance, and Blue Earth County over 160. All told, there are over 17,000 in Minnesota.
That is a very large number. But, officials say there are many more who are not registered and that no one knows about.
Sarah Hustad of the Minnesota Department of Corrections told the community members at the public meeting that they should be more concerned about the sexual predators that they don’t know about, rather than the ones that they do. Level 3 offenders have to be registered with state and local law enforcement officials and are being monitored. But there are a lot more out there who have not been caught.
Those should cause concern, because they are hard to spot.
She called it the Beware of the Boogeyman problem. Parents warn their children about “stranger danger,” but most predators are not strangers, but are rather someone the child knows, or think they know, and they trust them. And then there are the predators using the Internet to stalk their victims.
Hustad gave out lists of places to learn more about how to keep our children safe. Not just safe from predators, but from other things as well. She suggested having a monthly family safety meeting. And keeping the lines of communication open with your kids.
Chief Deputy Scott Adams and Deputy Mark Purvis said they give talks to groups about safety, at schools, churches, etc. Bricelyn community members asked about having one there and Adams said they would love to do just that.
Parents have a lot to worry about these days when it comes to their children. I still remember roaming the neighborhood when I was a kid and playing with my friends. My parents didn’t know where I was every minute, and wouldn’t worry unless I didn’t show up for meals or it was bedtime.
It is a different world out there now. The Boogeyman is everywhere. And often times he doesn’t look like a scary guy.
Hustad suggests parents check out Stop it Now! Minnesota at stopitnow.org/mn and the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center at jwrc.org or the Minnesota Department of Health Sexual Violence Prevention website at health.state.mn.us/svp. If you want to check out the predatory offender registry list, go to dps.mn.gov/divisions/bca or also check out the Minnesota Department of Corrections at mn.gov/doc.