More than 200 concerned residents of the southeast Como neighborhood crowded into the Southeast Christian Church on Monday evening to learn about a Level III sex offender who was recently released from prison into their neighborhood.
Level III sex offenders are considered the most likely to reoffend.
Members of the Minneapolis Police Department’s Community Crime Prevention and SAFE teams announced that 28-year-old Lonnie Michael Kazeck was released this month and currently resides near the intersection of Como and 18th avenues southeast.
“This meeting tonight is not so much about this offender as it is about all offenders living in Minneapolis,” said Minneapolis police Sgt. Giovanni Veliz. “If we can keep one person from offending, we will have gained.”
Neighbors expressed significant concern because Kazeck was convicted of criminal sexual conduct with juvenile males. His approximate address is within a block of Tuttle Community School.
“I’m concerned because I have a niece and a nephew going to the school,” said Tina Helland, a University junior with a major in sociology. “That doesn’t make me feel too secure.”
Because Kazeck completed his eight-year sentence, officials said, he was released without any probationary conditions: “No one in this room has the power to tell this man where to live,” said Will Alexander, a community notification coordinator with the Minnesota Department of Corrections.
Passed in 1991, Minnesota’s Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Kids Act requires sex offenders who are released from prison to register in the cities in which they live.
Megan’s Law, enacted Jan. 1, 1997, is an addendum to the earlier act, Alexander said, by requiring public notification when a Level III offender moves into a neighborhood.
This meeting was the 25th to occur in Minneapolis since January 1997. Pat Behrend, a Minneapolis crime prevention specialist, has presented information at each one.
“People usually say they feel somewhat relieved” after a meeting, Behrend said.
But relieved is not a word that characterized the atmosphere inside the church sanctuary. Residents of all ages huddled in small groups, speaking among themselves as officials prepared their presentation.
“Well, I sure hope he’s reformed,” said local resident John Ruhland.
Ruhland said although he is worried for his two teenage stepdaughters, the close-knit neighborhood is a strong benefit to the situation.
“You want your neighbors to know what’s going on,” Behrend echoed. “It’s really crucial. It’s one of the best ways you can protect your kids.”
Although many characteristics can help distinguish a sex offender, she said, there is no “typical” sex offender.
According to a 1997 study, more than 90 percent of all victims of sex crimes were either related to or acquaintances of their assailants. By encouraging open communication among family and friends, Behrend said, situations leading to an assault can be avoided.
Many residents were upset that Kazeck had been released before the meeting took place. By law, corrections officials must notify local police of the release five days before the fact.
But because of the process of notifications and meeting organization, said SAFE Officer Gary Hein, the meeting took place almost two weeks after Kazeck was released.