June 7, 2022 at 2:27 p.m.

‘You are the eyes and ears of the community’

‘You are the eyes and ears of the community’
‘You are the eyes and ears of the community’

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Information shared during community notification conversation

“You are the eyes and ears of the community,” people attending a May 26 predatory offender relocation notification meeting at the Melrose City Center were told when information was shared and concerns voiced. 

“Law enforcement is only as strong as the community it mirrors,” said Mark Bliven, director of risk assessment community notification from the Minnesota Department of Corrections.  “If you have concerns or see questionable behavior, speak up. See something, say something.” 

The most important thing is to share information, Vic Weiss, Stearns County Sheriff’s Office lieutenant, told more than 40 people at the meeting. 

“The good thing about this meeting is all those issues you are speaking about, that discussion will be going on with further investigation of what exactly is going on,” Bliven said. 

There was a lot of information given out during the 80-minute presentation held because James Stamps, Jr., a level 3 predatory offender, had notified law enforcement of his address change to Melrose. 

Maus met with Stamps, Jr., the day he came to town, and Melrose officers will be doing random checks throughout the year to ensure he is in compliance.

Melrose police officers make contact with all levels of predatory offenders living in Melrose at least twice a year. Most offenders living in Melrose are level 1, Maus said.    

Bliven talked about predatory offenders in general and shared information related to Stamps, Jr., during what he called a community notification conversation. 

He said there are close to 18,790 people on the Minnesota predatory offender list subject to registration. 

“With the risk levels we assign, about 15% are level 3, 29% are level 2 and the majority, level 1, are 56%,” Bliven said. “As of May 17, there are 432 level 3s (in Minnesota), and we’re talking about one in Melrose.” 

Locally, in Stearns County there are 427 registrants and 54 in Todd County.

The biggest danger, Bliven said, are people at risk of offending who law enforcement do not know about who are not on the list. 

“We have 700 sexual offenses every year in Minnesota. About 35 of those are committed by people already on the registry, so more than 600 are committed by people not on the registry,” Bliven said. 

 Since 1991, offenders, with certain criminal convictions that are usually sexual in nature, have been required to register with law enforcement, and in 1997 community notification was started, Bliven said. Predatory offenders need to provide their primary and secondary addresses and any property they own, places of employment and places they volunteer at, if they attend school and any vehicles they own and operate. 

“This gives law enforcement broad information if they want to contact them,” Bliven said. 

He said some registrants serve prison time and before they leave prison they are assigned a risk level. A report is compiled and sent to local law enforcement.

“And then it’s up to local law enforcement,” Bliven said. 

With a level 3 assessment, law enforcement can do a broad notification and hold a meeting. 

“It doesn’t matter if they are coming from prison or moving from one community to another,” Bliven said. “That’s what happened in this case. This person moved from one community to another, and when we heard about that we passed on a packet of information to the chief in Melrose, and now it’s the responsibility of local law enforcement to do this notification.” 

He explained with a level 1 notification, information is available to law enforcement and to the victim. For level 2, law enforcement can share information with people who would likely have a defined interest in it, people who are strongly connected to the registrant, Bliven said. Level 3 is a broad public notification with no limitation on how that information can be shared.

He said most of those who offend are not stranger offenses. 

“Most are people known to the victims,” he said. “Unfortunately, they are often family members, children, teens.” 

Thirty-four percent of those who offend do it against their family members, 59% are against people they know and 7% are offended by a stranger. 

“The person we are here for tonight falls in the 7 percent,” Bliven said. “This isn’t a person who most in the community are in danger of.”

One-third of all victims are children ages 0-12, 1/3 are teenagers 13-17 and 1/3 are adults. 

“In reality, teenagers are a higher likelihood to be victims. They become more independent. They have their own relationships and that’s when those types of offenses start occurring,” Bliven said. “Because of those relationships, they might not be as careful as they should be and that is the fear of parents, isn’t it?”

Bliven encouraged parents to pay attention to what is happening in their teenagers’ lives. 

He shared information about Stamps, Jr., who served 13 years in prison for physical assault and engaging with sexual contact with unknown females in three separate incidents in 2003. He was released from prison in 2017 and completed his entire sentence in January of 2021 with a level 3 risk designation.  

“He didn’t have an extensive history but because those three offenses were spread over a short time period it was concerning and the use of a weapon was concerning and that’s what led to a level 3 designation,” Bliven said. 

The DOC was then finished with Stamps, Jr., and he was only required to register with law enforcement. 

“He is under no restrictions where he can live. That is up to him,” Bliven said.  

Stamps, Jr., is required to register as a predatory offender for life, not matter where he lives. 

Bliven said 90% of those who get caught and are held accountable do not reoffend and 90% of the offenders do not have a prior history. 

“The guy we are talking about didn’t have a prior history,” he said. “It’s good that he has gone 19 years without reoffending, and he’s 40 and not 21.”  

Bliven said if anyone has concerns about his behavior they are encouraged to call 911. He gave out other resources, including the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center and the Central Minnesota Sexual Assault Center, which has a crisis line. 

He said they are not holding this meeting to cause fear. 

“We want to make sure you have an awareness of the true dangers and concerns,” he said. 

Maus said this meeting was a benefit to the community. When it comes to Stamps, Jr., Maus said all Melrose officers are aware who he is. 

“We won’t be his babysitter, but we are well aware,” he said.  

Weiss said the sheriff’s department is part of the monitoring systems and works in partnership with Melrose police officers.  

“He (Stamps, Jr.) has to do his due diligence and be a good neighbor,” Weiss said.

A number of questions were asked by attendees and concerns brought up.

When asked if there would be notification if Stamps, Jr., moves from Melrose, Weiss said the Melrose Police Department would receive updates on his movements. 

“If he leaves Melrose in the middle of the night and does his due diligence, he (Maus) and I will receive notification,” Weiss said. “We are all interconnected.” 


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