In response to a request by this blog to address the issue of Level Three Sex Offender concentration in our neighborhoods, this morning I received the following response from Linda Higgins, who is a candidate for County Commissioner in District 2...
John, this is a rough compilation of our FB conversation the other night. This is not meant to be a “statement,” as you’ve stated on your blog that Blong has issued. It’s just an honest answer.
Concentration of L3SOs isn’t acceptable. It also concentrates poverty, unemployment low job skills, low education. The safety of those who live nearby is in question, and a single community ends up taking a disproportionate share of our entire society’s problems. A major part of the problem with the concentration is that there isn’t a hard and fast definition of concentration.
The county could do a better job of trying to distribute these guys throughout the county. Hennepin is the county of commit for most (we’re a quarter of the state’s population), so they must originally return to the county. But they concentrate here in North Minneapolis, where rents are cheaper and there are landlords who will rent to them. Supreme Court decision says they have to have flexible housing arrangements. They must come out to their county of commit, but you can’t make them stay there. The county of commit, by the way, is where the crime was committed, not where the criminal is from. So someone from Pine County or Isanti County who commits a crime here in Hennepin must be returned to Hennepin, not where they are actually from.
To distribute them better means that the county should hire someone to be a fulltime housing coordinator for L3SOs. Role would be to work with landlords in other areas to get them to rent to L3SOs. I understand DOC has a pilot project recruiting landlords around the state to rent to this population. I don’t believe any reentry programs include SOs. The organizations don’t want to get involved with them.
DOC should look at funding formulas for Community Corrections Act counties (CCA counties) to recognize jurisdictions that are bearing costs for crimes that require a higher level of supervision. When bank robbers or murderers are off paper, for example, they’re done. L3SOs must register forever. This might give counties more funding to hire someone who would be dedicated to addressing the housing concentration issue.
As we have discussed for a while now, we have not seen the collective political will to fix the issue of concentration because it means others will have to have more in their communities. Any one candidate who says he or she can “fix” the issue is either not being honest or has no idea of how complex the issue really is or does not understand the dynamic that comes along with it (the conundrum you and I have discussed at length). That being said, I think anyone who represents this area at any level MUST work hard at trying to solve the problem. I have done that. I will continue to do that.
JNS blog adds, by way of explanation: The "conundrum" mentioned is the fact any attempt to "de-concentrate" Level Three Sex Offenders means they will have to go somewhere else besides North Minneapolis. Consequently, representatives from "somewhere else" aren't going to help us because THEY certainly don't want more sex offenders, and North Minneapolis doesn't have the political power to make changes all by ourselves. So it seems like we're just stuck.
If there's a "game changing" solution for our county leaders, I don't have any idea what it would be. As far as other ideas, that is a topic I will write about later.
JNS blog thanks both Blong Yang and Linda Higgins for providing a thoughtful answer in regard to this issue. If either of you have more thoughts on this issue, forward them by email and I will publish those thoughts as quickly as possible.