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Published August 16, 2013, 10:14 PM

Alert to sex offenders: Public told door-to-door and via Internet, rather than large meetings

The Internet has made the use of community meetings unneeded when it comes to notifying the public when a high-risk sex offender moves into a neighborhood in Grand Forks.

By: Stephen J. Lee, Grand Forks Herald

The Internet has made the use of community meetings unneeded when it comes to notifying the public when a high-risk sex offender moves into a neighborhood in Grand Forks.

“When the sex-offender (notification) laws first went into effect, and we had a community meeting for the first time, we had standing room only,” said Grand Forks Police Lt. Grant Schiller Friday.

That was a decade and a half ago.

In recent years, the public notification when a “Level 3,” sex offender — the most likely to re-offend — moves to a new place still means footwork for police officers but also more use of media, new and old, Schiller said.

That’s what happened this week in the case of James McLeod, 27, a Level 3 sex offender who moved into a north Grand Forks apartment.

“Two or three of us got out at a time, with handbills,” Schiller said. “We do a neighborhood door-to-door canvas. We tell them there’s a high-risk sex offender moving into your neighborhood, here is a picture of him, here’s information where you can contact us.”

The officers can cover a block or two of the neighborhood in a day.

“If someone is not home, we leave the handbill in their door,” Schiller said.

Then the police department puts out a news release to local media, as it did Thursday about McLeod.

The public meetings no longer are held because the public simply stopped meeting.

“People just didn’t attend them after a while, to the point they were ineffective,” Schiller said.

What seems to be effective are the Internet sites, such as the North Dakota Attorney General’s office’s page, listing sex offenders with photos and information about them, Schiller said. The police department also posts a page of local Level 3 offenders on its website.

Monitoring of lower-risk sex offenders is done, but at lower levels.

“We track 104 sex offenders living here now, five of them are at the high-risk level,” Schiller said.

The system has worked well, he said. Offenders know they are required to keep local law enforcement up- to-date on their whereabouts. Police officers can make random visits to the homes and workplaces of high-risk offenders.

“We stay on top of them pretty close,” Schiller said.

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