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Paynesville Press - May 26, 2004

Precautions should keep community safe, chief says

By Bonnie Jo Hanson and Michael Jacobson

Paynesville now has three level-two sex offenders living in town, but the community is just as safe, as long as people take precautions, according to Paynesville Police Chief Kent Kortlever.

Two level-two offenders have moved to town within the past month, but when Kortlever notified certain local institutions, as he is allowed to do by law, hysteria ensued. (Public notification is reserved for level-three sex offenders, the most serious cases. Stearns County does not have any level-three sex offenders at present.)

Since all sex offenders must register with local law enforcement for ten years, they have already served their time and may have even completed their parole, said Kortlever.

Sex offenders reside in virtually ever city in the state, including Paynesville, said Kortlever. Paynesville has a number of level-one sex offenders, those judged to be least likely to reoffend.

(Sexual offenders are judged on these levels - one, least serious; two, moderate risk to reoffend; and three, most likely to reoffend -Ębased on the seriousness of their offense, on the offender's history, on the length of time since they offended, and on their social history.

In Paynesville, it's impossible to know how many sex offenders pass through town on any given day, said Kortlever, who has randomly run tags on unfamiliar cars and found them registered to sex offenders. Plus, every town has sex offenders who have not been caught, he added. People need to stay calm, not panic, and follow simple steps for staying safe, said Kortlever.

(1) Children, teens, and women should use the buddy system and should always stay near a friend. Teens do not necessarily need to be with an adult; there is safety in numbers.

(2) Be aware of your surroundings. Trust your instincts. If something makes you feel uncomfortable, get out.

(3) Change your routine. Sexual predators sometimes will learn routines to find the best time and place to attack.

(4) Parents need to supervise their kids. Children without parental supervision are prime targets for sexual predators.

(5) Report suspicious vehicles, people, or activities to the police.

People face greater risks than sexual assaults or violent crime everyday, noted Kortlever. Drunk drivers kill more Minnesotans than violent criminals, and for every homicide in Minnesota, five people die in car crashes.

So, while people need to take precautions against sexual predators, they also need to keep things in perspective, according to Kortlever.

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