Notification session elicits questions

Approximately 25 people attended a meeting Wednesday night at the Hubbard County Law Enforcement Center and heard a presentation about sex offenders in general and a Level 3 sex offender who is living in Park Rapids.

Approximately 25 people attended a meeting Wednesday night at the Hubbard County Law Enforcement Center and heard a presentation about sex offenders in general and a Level 3 sex offender who is living in Park Rapids.

Police chief Terry Eilers and the Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) hosted the community notification meeting.

"Sex offenders have always been among us and will continue to be," said Scott Behrends of the DOC. It's only since Jan. 1, 1997 that law enforcement has been allowed to tell the public about certain offenders.

Behrends gave residents an overview of how sex offenders are assigned risk levels and what the public can expect from DOC.

Level 1 offenders are considered to be low public risk, Level 2 moderate and Level 3 "high public risk."


As of July 1, about 4,890 of the state's 14,000 registered predatory offenders were assigned a risk level. Of that number, 2,931 were assigned as Level 1, 1,257 as Level 2 and 702 as Level 3.

According to Behrends, currently 32 registered sex offenders are living in Park Rapids; 65 in Hubbard County, 79 in Becker, 141 in Beltrami, 112 in Cass and 51 in Wadena County.

"These are the ones we know about," Behrends said. "Others are offending that we don't know about yet."

One thing that is known, he continued, is 86-90 percent of offenders are someone well known, an acquaintance or family member of the victim; 10-14 percent are not known.

"It's about relationship, not residence," Behrends emphasized.

Behrends also cited a study that tracked convicted sex offenders for 12 years. Seven percent don't go back to jail by committing a sex offense; most often re-incarceration is for violating a condition of their release.

The reason for the meeting was the release of Troy Lee Bruce, 34, who is living with family in the 800 block of Pine Street.

According to Behrends, Bruce was convicted of 4th degree criminal sexual misconduct with a 5-year-old male and was not known by the victim.


Originally, Bruce was placed on six years probation. He appeared in court several times for probation violations before his prison sentence was executed. He was sentenced to 21 months, but with credit for time served, Bruce was incarcerated for about eight months.

Behrends also said Bruce was convicted of a 4th degree offense rather than a 3rd degree offense as the result of a plea agreement.

Bruce will be under supervision until 2012 and is required to register as a sex offender until Sept. 12, 2017.

"If he is re-incarcerated, the 10 years starts over," Andy Hadrava, one of several probation agents attending the meeting, said.

Bruce also is under the strictest supervision allowed, including GPS monitoring and the prospect of unannounced, random visits 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These visits can be where he lives, at work or at treatment.

With approval from probation officers, he may go to church or to seek employment, Behrends noted. Community members may see him in the grocery store or other places.

"It is important to know that harassing anybody is illegal," he added. "That is a concern," Behrends said. "We don't want anything to happen to this statute (allowing notification)."

At the same time, he said, "It is important to report any suspicious behavior," such as an appearance that he is under the influence of alcohol or is around kids. "Call law enforcement right away.


"Community members can help by accepting that sex offenders live in communities. Supervising them is a complex intervention, but a necessary one because the more stable they are, the less likely they are to fall back into the offense cycle."

In response to some hostility from members of the audience, Behrends urged using appropriate channels for concerns, including educating neighbors, friends and family members.

He also referred residents to a number of resources including one with tips for young children and teenagers, Stop It Now! Minnesota at and the Jacob Wetterling Foundation Web site at .

Kim Zimmerman of the Beltrami, Hubbard and Cass Counties Sexual Assault Program also offered resources, such as helping families work on safety plans.

Behrends then fielded questions from residents that revealed Bruce is required to have face-to-face contact with a probation agent or law enforcement officer a minimum of four times a week and Bruce does not have a drivers license.

Some said they were concerned that Bruce had moved here before the notice was published.

Sherry Hill, DOC supervisor of intensive supervision, said when he was released from prison in September, Bruce went to St. Peter. A petition had been filed and was under review for civil commitment, but the matter was dismissed. At that point, Hill explained, DOC was required to make arrangements to pick him up from St. Peter.

"We made arrangements for the community notification hearing as quickly as we could, but that's why it came out after," Hill said. "Legally, we have to get them out of there so the hearing occurs after the fact."


Behrends added that while officials are limited in what they can say about the civil process, it was either the Hubbard County attorney or Attorney General's office that felt the petition did not meet the criteria for commitment.

Asked by a resident what neighbors should watch for and possibly report "without being paranoid," Behrends said, "Anything you think is suspicious."

Chief deputy Frank Homer added: "If you're asking yourself the question, then you probably should call. It might be minor, but it's worth calling and letting us assess the situation."

"And these offenders are all on law enforcement's radar screen," Behrends said. "In this case, they will investigate immediately, not just the next time they go over there (to his residence)."

Homer vouched for that. He said he's taken calls and called probation officers at 3 a.m. and "they're out there."

Law enforcement also can take Bruce into custody immediately if the situation warrants, Behrends said.

In addition to contacting local law enforcement, residents with questions or concerns may call probation toll free at 800-417-3836.

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