Mendota Heights passes sex offender residency restrictions

The Mendota Heights City Council unanimously passed an ordinance at its June 19 meeting that will restrict where sex offenders can reside in the city.    

Police Chief Kelly McCarthy said at the meeting that an April 26 community meeting was held regarding a level-two sex offender who moved into the area.

“As a result of that meeting, council asked staff to research residency restrictions and come forward with a proposal,” she said.

McCarthy said although there’s no data supporting the claim that residency restrictions do anything to positively affect public safety, she said the restrictions do tend to make people feel better about their community.

McCarthy said the restrictions would cover level-two and level-three offenders, restricting them from living within 1,200 feet of where children commonly congregate — places like schools and daycare centers. The ordinance would also restrict such offenders from living within 1,200 feet of one another. 

Offenders would also be restricted from dressing up in costumes for holidays, said McCarthy, “with the intent of luring children to do something or another.”

 

Impact of the restrictions 

Mark Mehl, a supervisor with Dakota County Community Corrections, said approximately 110 new sex offenders are placed on supervised probation in the county each year, and around 80 sex offenders are discharged successfully each year.

Jim Scovil, deputy director of Dakota County Community Corrections, said 224 sex offenders out of 3,166 in a study reoffended, but none of the cases were associated with residential proximity to a school, park or daycare.

Scovil said an offender having a relative or friend they can live with is critical in keeping offenders connected to the community. An offender who is under intense supervised release can’t be homeless, so some may run away as to not have to go back to jail.

Some may be homeless and registered in one city but living in another, he added. They can do this because they are no longer under intense supervised released. 

“As more and more communities develop residency restrictions, [offenders] can’t maybe go live with their high school buddy that’s willing to have them come,” Scovil said, adding when an offender is off the supervision of the department of corrections, other local law enforcement sometimes aren’t aware of their presence.  

Mehl added someone in a stable home with support from family and friends is in a better place to go to treatment, which is effective, noting that eight Dakota County cities have residency restrictions.

 

Council questions

Council member Ultan Duggan asked if sex offenders could live in shelters like the Dorothy Day Center. Mehl said level-one offenders can stay in some shelters. Level two and three are more restricted. 

Council member Joel Paper asked if the number of level two and three offenders was increasing each year. Scovil said numbers have remained relatively flat.

Paper wondered if he wanted to see how many offenders were living close to him, where he could find such information. Scovil said they aren’t allowed to give out actual addresses. Mehl said law enforcement could give information on an address but not the Dakota DOC. 

Council member Liz Petschel said the level-two sex offender in the city is a unique situation because he has no supervision requirements. 

Mehl said it is unusual for someone to come out of Minnesota’s Sex Offender Program with no supervision of any kind. He added someone in that program isn’t allowed to move into a community until their risk factors are reduced. 

The ordinance goes into effect July 1. 

 

– Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or hburlingame@lillienews.com

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