North Minneapolis residents angry about the number of convicted sex offender being relocated to their neighborhoods called on local and state officials Tuesday night to find ways to stop the practice.
"For some reason, this community has been saddled with a concentration of Level 3 sex offenders at a rate over 10 times the county ratio," Jordan Area Community Council board member Dave Haddy told elected and law enforcement officials gathered at the Hennepin County North Regional Library.
Using data from the Minnesota Department of Corrections website and the Census, and comparing his findings across city Zip codes, the north Minneapolis resident said it's happening "to a section of the city that is the poorest, has the most single parent families and has the greatest percentage of children under 18."
Haddy said in some neighborhoods, there are five or six Level 3 offenders on a single block. A Minneapolis police official at the meeting said that out of 139 Level 3 sex offenders throughout the city, 55 are located in several north side neighborhoods. Haddy asked why other counties and cities don't have any sex offenders.
"I demand answers. We demand answers," Haddy said. "Enough is enough. We demand action."
One answer came from Mark Bliven, who supervises the community notification unit in the Minnesota Department of Corrections: 80 percent of sex offenders now living in Hennepin County were living in the county before they went to prison. Offenders relocate in areas where they have access to family, friends and housing -- all factors that Bliven says reduce the likelihood they'll re-offend.
"That's our biggest goal," he said of state and county departments of corrections. "The primary goal is to prevent recidivism."
None of the neighborhood residents who spoke at the meeting reported crimes committed by Level 3 offenders. However, a real estate agent said she knew of one home sale that fell apart after the buyers saw a map that showed sex offenders living nearby.
Jordan resident and neighborhood council board member Dennis Wagner suggested legal action.
"We've been going through this, years and years," he said. "What's left? We can talk about it, but my guess is we're going nowhere. This is dead-stop in the water. We're going to see more of the same. Our next action: File a suit."
The elected officials at the meeting, state Reps. Joe Mullery, and Raymond Dehn, state Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, and Hennepin County Commissioner Linda Higgins, also expressed concern about the concentration of offenders. (Minneapolis City Council member and mayoral candidate Don Samuels had to leave the meeting early to attend a mayoral debate.)
Higgins said the different government bodies have to find a way to work with each other.
"Sadly, what I'm seeing around the table -- and I'm participating in it and I apologize -- is we're all pointing fingers in everybody else's directions. And we all get to own all of this. Everyone of us at the table," he said.
One idea inspired some residents to nod their heads in agreement: Jon Hinchliff of the Minneapolis Police Department suggested that the city or county charge fees to the landlords who rent properties to multiple sex offenders.
"There are a lot of costs associated with both corrections and the city of Minneapolis -- compliance checks, the time we spend with them, a variety of expenses -- that come into play," he said. "And we should start assessing those that rent to these offenders, that additional cost."
At the end of the meeting some residents asked legislators, county and city officials to take action to stop the future relocation of sex offenders to their neighborhoods. But the officials told the audience they would have to take more gradual steps.