Editorial: Be vigilant in teaching children about personal safety

Published 7:37 pm Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Every time local law enforcement releases information that a high-risk predatory offender is moving into our community, questions surface about why that person may be able to be released and what the guidelines are for offenders.

Albert Lea presently has five predatory offenders with a Level 3 classification — with another expected to move to town next week. A Level 3 offender is an offender with the highest likelihood of reoffending.

The law allows authorities to notify the public at large in the case of a Level 3 offender; however, only community groups such as schools and day cares are notified when Level 2 offenders move into the area. When Level 1 offenders move to town, only law enforcement is notified, along with victims and witnesses.

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In Minnesota, there are no laws in place that prohibit where offenders may choose to live once they complete their sentence. Many of the offenders who have moved back to Albert Lea previously lived here before being sent to prison.

There are also no provisions that prohibit offenders from living near a school or day care. According to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, restricting a registered offender’s residency can be a condition of that person’s probation or parole, but if the person is no longer on probation or parole, those restrictions are no longer in place.

The same is true for whether Level 3 offenders are allowed to have contact with children. There are no provisions in state law prohibiting offenders from having contact with minors, though it is frequently a condition of an offender’s probation or parole.

Though many may question these laws, they are what is in place, and people must do what they can to educate themselves and their children about how to keep safe.

Unfortunately these high-risk offenders are not the only offenders we should be vigilant at protecting ourselves and our children from. Predatory offenders can be from all walks of life and can be both young and old. While some have been publicized, others have not. According to the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, most often a sexual perpetrator is a known, trusted person to the family, the victim, the neighborhood, the community or the workplace.

The Resource Center offers several concepts to guide you as you teach children and teens about personal safety:

• Talk to your children about times they may need to say no to an adult. If a child is being tricked into confusing or harmful touch, he or she should be taught to say “no” loudly and get away from that situation.

• Teach your children to tell you or another trusted adult if something happens that makes them uncomfortable and to trust their instincts. If they get a feeling in their gut telling them that something is wrong, they should leave and check in with a parent or caregiver.

• Teach your children if they are asked to keep a secret from their parents or other trusted adults, that this is a red flag to leave that situation and talk to you immediately.

• Help your children learn thir phone number, address, parents’ and caregivers’ phone numbers and how to dial 911 in case of an emergency.

Though it may be an uncomfortable subject to bring up with your child, it is critical to have the conversation.