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City adopts tighter predatory offender residency limits

Farmington City Council members on June 5 approved a predatory offender ordinance that restricts Level 3 offenders from living in close proximity to schools, churches, day cares and parks.

The new city ordinance will apply to Level 3 offenders and those whose victims are under the age of 16 years old and whose crimes involve child pornography. The new ordinance will only affect designated offenders who intend to move into Farmington in the future, and the law will not affect those who currently live in the city.

Farmington Police Chief Brian Lindquist presented the ordinance, reporting currently there are no Level 3 sex offenders currently living in Farmington. During his more than 11-year tenure as chief, Lindquist only recalls a couple times where the city was mandated to host a public notification meeting because a Level 3 sex offender was moving to Farmington.

Nearly 23 years ago, Megan's Law was enacted. Megan's Law is the federal law and informal name for subsequent laws in the United States that require law enforcement authorities to make information available to the public regarding registered sex offenders. Megan's Law was enacted in response to the murder of Megan Kanka, a 7-year-old New Jersey girl raped and murdered by her neighbor.

The new ordinance is designed to protect residents by restricting designated offenders from living in close proximity to schools, churches, day care facilities and designated parks.

Lindquist offered a brief history of the sex offender law in the state. Since 1991 all felony level sex offenders in Minnesota have been required to register their home address with local law enforcement in accordance with state law. The Legislature passed a Community Notification Act in 1996 that charged local law enforcement with the mandated responsibility of informing the public about sex offenders living in their community.

"The Legislature found that if members of the public are provided adequate notice and information about a sex offender who has been or is about to be released from custody and how lives or will live in or near their neighborhood, the community can develop constructive plans to prepare themselves and their children for the offender's release," Lindquist said.

A Level 1 sex offender's move into a community does not require any public notification per state statute. Level III sex offenders are the worst threat, Lindquist said, and require a mandated community notification meeting.

The city of Farmington reviewed how to best protect residents in a bigger way than just community notification, Lindquist said. That is how this city ordinance came to be.

When a Level 1, Level 2 or Level 3 sex offender is going to move into Farmington, Lindquist said the Farmington police get notified from the state and the Minnesota Department of Corrections of the address, along with vital details about the sexual predator's past crimes.

"It is rather common that sex offenders move back to their residence because their families are still there, and it is not uncommon they many don't spend any time in confinement," Lindquist said.

The ordinance looks at four main properties from schools, day care centers, parks and parks. The ordinance states the offender cannot live within 1,500 feet boundary line of the property lines from these designated properties in the city that are near schools, parks, daycares and churches.

Most cities in Dakota County and most area city police chiefs have taken the same approach to target a distance where future offenders may live within cities.

"A great many of the cities are like us and our neighbors have hired the same legal counsel," Lindquist said. "We decided that this buffer zone would be necessary for people to feel safe and comfortable and provide the best amount of protection possible."