Sex offenders and the oil boom: Housing situation makes tracking registrants difficult, not impossibleWhen sex offenders cross state lines into North Dakota, they’re tracked by law enforcement — even those in the atypical housing situation that’s common in Dickinson.
By: Betsy Simon, The Dickinson Press
When sex offenders cross state lines into North Dakota, they’re tracked by law enforcement — even those in the atypical housing situation that’s common in Dickinson.
Sgt. Kylan Klauzer with the Dickinson Police Department, who has been in investigations for five years, said his department’s ability to track sex offenders was aided by a $500,000 U.S. Department of Justice grant North Dakota received in September.
The money helped law enforcement improve programs designed to capture and prosecute sex offenders, particularly offenders of children, a portion of which came to Dickinson.
“It was called Operation Safer and was headed by U.S. Marshal Service,” he said. “We were called and asked how much time we needed to do face-to-face interviews with registered sex offenders in Dickinson, so we gave them the amount of time we felt it would take and they paid us for all of our overtime.”
But tracking sex offenders could be complicated if they live in a car or RV, which has grown in popularity because affordable housing in Dickinson is scarce, according to city officials.
City Engineer Shawn Soehren said during a visit with Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp on June 22 that people living in their cars or RVs in Dickinson isn’t unheard of.
City Administrator Shawn Kessel added that the status of those people is often unknown.
“There are a lot of issues with people living in campers or places where they aren’t supposed to be living,” he said.
Heitkamp suggested mandating that the most serious offenders who live in atypical housing be required to wear tracking devices to monitor their whereabouts.
But Klauzer said that isn’t possible.
“That would have to be ordered as part of their parole sentence, but we can’t do that as a department,” he said. “We get their file from the state they came here from and give it to an official in North Dakota to look at and classify the offender. We follow the guidelines they give to us and the department doesn’t have any say. A monitor or bracelet would have to be ordered by the state.”
For sex offenders in Dickinson who do not live in a house or apartment, Klauzer said extra steps are taken to ensure public safety.
“I wouldn’t say this affects a lot of our sex offenders but it is common, especially … with the housing situation in Dickinson,” he said. “In general, if a sex offender is going to live in a location like that, we take extra caution and steps because there is slightly more of a chance or risk, so we have to keep even closer tabs on them.
“I have one who says he will stay at Tiger Discount Truck Stop, so he has to give us information about his vehicle and details of actual location because if we’re unable to verify their location, that would be a Class C felony. By state law, they have to have a physical address, but a lot of times this happens with people who come from out of state — and we tell them that they have to have a physical address. Anything else won’t cut it.”
According to the North Dakota Attorney General’s Office sex offender registry, nine sex offenders live in Stark County, including seven in Dickinson.
North Dakota law requires out-of-state sex offenders register with the police department in their city of residence if they plan to stay overnight for 10 or more consecutive days, or for 30 or more days in a calendar year.
Registration includes a sex offender’s home and employer addresses, school and motor vehicle information, email addresses and social networking information. Offenders are responsible for giving law enforcement a 10-day advanced notice of changes in their registration.
The state attorney general’s office in Bismarck handles the classification of sex offenders who move to North Dakota.
“When they come from out of state and their information is transferred to North Dakota, there is an evaluation process,” Klauzer said. “North Dakota doesn’t follow the same classification procedures other states do. We use a high, medium or low system, and their classification is determined by the attorney general’s office in Bismarck.
“When someone who comes here is determined to be high risk, we do the best we can to get a press release out to let the public know,” he added.
Tracking sex offenders is time consuming, but Klauzer said it’s important to the public.
“It is tough because we have an in increase in case loads and need to keep tabs on these people, so it can be a battle that we have to stay on top of because it is important for community,” he said. “With activity in Dickinson, we have a lot of people who come and go, so our files change every week. It’s not like several years ago, where we would get a list of 20 or 30 people and they were permanent, but that’s not the situation for us anymore.”
Klauzer said parents or anyone concerned with where a sex offender is located should check the North Dakota Sex Offender website at www.sexoffender.nd.gov.