It’s a safe assumption that nobody is going to relish the prospect of having to live in close proximity to a convicted flagrant sex offender.
We’re talking here about those convicted of serious crimes — violent sex assaults, assaults of children, distributors and consumers of child pornography. Not the 19-year-old convicted and punished for underage relations with his minor teenage girlfriend.
Yet once serious offenders have served their time in prison state law allows that they can be placed in or near the community from which they came. Notification is made to the local county and then disseminated to the public, usually as the wheels are in motion for imminent placement.
Understandably, the notifications can cause alarm in a community, as they did in May when Salem Lakes officials learned in the 11th hour that two offenders were to be released to live in the Camp Lake area of the village.
Alerted by Village Administrator Mike Murdock, residents turned on en masse for public meetings. Village staff deftly determined that the placements were in violation of the village’s ordinance on placement as the residence selected was too close to a neighborhood park. Village officials went to Circuit Court and were able to block the placement of Dale H. Peshek and Brian T. Threlkeld.
Peshek, 48, was convicted in 1998 for the sexual assault of a 14-year-old boy in 1997 and with child enticement involving the same boy in 1995. Threlkeld was convicted in 2000 for the sexual assault of a 13-year-old boy, and, according to past news reports, admitted to assaulting others.
That’s the conundrum that offenders who have done their time find themselves in. Most municipalities have ordinances limiting where the convicted offenders can live. It’s a difficult problem to resolve and we have no easy answers for it. Essentially these past offenders, who rightfully are required to be on the state’s registry and check in regularly with their probation agents, are branded with a scarlet letter of sorts for the duration they are ordered on the registry, which for many is for life.
No doubt some offenders learned their lessons while in prison and strive for a new start and to become part of society again. But the registry also serves the vital role of helping to protect the public, especially our children, sex crime victims and the vulnerable.
That’s why the Kenosha County Board’s recent action to give municipalities earlier notification of sex offender placements deserves praise. The communities affected deserve input on the placements and to divert potential conflicts with local ordinances. These officials may very well have suggestions on where paroled offenders can live without causing undue alarm in the community.
The board’s resolution was researched thoroughly by county Supervisor Erin Decker, whose district includes Wheatland, where a similar placement order caused alarm in 2016 and led to changes in state statutes on placements.
“Right now the municipalities are not given a heads-up that this is going to happen until after the placement has been ordered by the court,” Decker said. “When they are looking for a place, they need to work with the municipalities to make sure that place fits the state statutes and it’s a good placement.”
The measure was approved by the County Board 17-6 with supervisors Andy Berg, John O’Day, John Franco, David Celebre, Ron Frederick and Edward Kubicki dissenting.
Berg is very much correct in noting the difficulty the paroled offenders face in finding placement.
“I know that when people do the crime, they’ve got to do the time,” Berg said. “When they get done with their time, they have to come back into our community somehow.”
But that is an issue that has to be figured out by a broader analysis by criminal justice experts, the courts, mental health professionals, state lawmakers and yes, local officials.
And while some will say the county resolution will be commandeered by “Nimbys” (Not in my back yarders,) we look at it as a tool that will increase transparency and serve the interest of public safety.
– Kenosha News