Editor’s Note: Richfield Patch recently received an e-mail from a resident who was concerned about the possibility of a sex offender living in a nearby apartment complex. The following article details the city/state’s role in monitoring and classifying offenders, as well as the requirements of offenders who have been released back into the community.
Although no individual identified by the Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) as a Level 3 predatory offender—the most serious and likely to re-offend—currently resides within Richfield, 42 individuals classified as Level 1 or Level 2 predatory offenders live in the city and are monitored by the Richfield Public Safety Department.
Criminals classified as predatory offenders—often termed as "sex offenders"—who were released in Minnesota after 1997 are required to register their primary addresses and other information with local law enforcement officials. However, that information does not become publicly available unless the offender becomes non-compliant with the registry. The Predatory Offender Registry is maintained by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, while the DOC maintains a separate registry of Level 3 offenders.
Those registered as predatory offenders with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension must register for 10 years or the duration of their probation; whichever is longer. Offenses that require registration include, but are not limited to: Criminal sexual conduct and felony level indecent exposure, kidnapping and false imprisonment, soliciting a minor to engage in prostitution or sexual conduct, using a minor in a sexual performance and possession of pictorial representations of minors.
John Schadl, a spokesperson for the DOC, reported that as part of Minnesota’s determinant sentencing, criminal offenders serve two-thirds of their sentence in a correctional facility, with the remaining one-third often served in a halfway house or other facility. Richfield Public Safety Officer David Franke reported that Richfield is home to two such facilities, both operated by Zumbro House, Inc.
“The purpose of this is to reacclimate somebody to moving back [into society]” Schadl added. “In that sense we get rid of the notion of time off for good behavior.”
How the Offender’s “Level” is Determined
"The level is determined by the DOC based on an individual's likelihood to re-offend," said Jill Oliveira, public information officer for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
At the time of an offender’s release a DOC panel takes into consideration variables that include the offender’s criminal history, prison record and frequency of incarceration when determining what level threat an individual constitutes—Level 1 being the least likely to re-offend and Level 3 being most likely to re-offend.
So, What Happens When an Offender Moves to Town?
When a Level 3 offender moves into a city, local law enforcement is required to notify the community. Franke is the Richfield officer in charge of monitoring predatory offenders and while he could recall three or four Level 3 offenders who had attempted to move into Richfield over the past few years, he said none had ever done so successfully.
On those occasions when a Level 3 offender attempted to move into the city, he contacted the owners of apartment complexes at which each registrant was trying to sign a lease. After telling apartment owners they had the right to rent to the offender but that Franke would have to hold a community meeting, post fliers in the neighborhood, and alert everyone that a Level 3 offender was living there, no building owner he’d spoken to had gone forward with the rental agreement.
“We don’t want to persecute anybody, we just want to obey the letter of the law that says, ‘You have to do this or do that.’” Franke said. “I personally don’t want to live next door to a predatory offender.”
However, Franke told Patch the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension's Predatory Offender Registry currently lists one offender—Michael Woods, 57—and former Richfield resident as having violated the terms of his registration. Woods was listed as a former resident at the Buena Vista Apartment Homes.
"As far as we can tell he moved back to California in '04. Buena Vista Apartments [has] had other people living [in Woods' former apartment] for some time," Franke said. "As a former narcotics investigator, the term we use is ‘in the wind.’"
Franke said Woods' whereabouts remain unknown.
"[Woods] is a violent criminal. Sooner or later he's going to beat up or assault someone, and when they do a check on him in California, his warrants [in Minnesota] will show up," Franke said. "I’m surprised he hasn’t been picked up since. Who knows, maybe he’s deceased."
As far as Level 1 and Level 2 offenders go, their information is not made public unless that individual becomes non-compliant with the registry. However, Franke said Richfield Public Safety makes an exception for Level 2 offenders living near a facility with juveniles.
“If an offender is a Level 2 offender and he lives near a school or daycare, I will take a photo of that person to that facility and say, ‘There’s a Level 2 offender [living nearby], just keep your eyes open.’” Franke said.
He said that he will usually inform daycare facilities and schools which are within one mile of a Level 2 offender’s place of residence.
Franke reported that, in addition to the Richfield Public Safety's own monitoring, officers also maintain passkey-enabled access to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s Predatory Offender Registry, which allows them to investigate offenders in any Minnesota municipality.
“I know [registered offenders] on sight,” said Franke. “They know I’m not out to arrest them, but I keep updated photographs and we have our own database.”