It's an uncomfortable topic, but a serious one nonetheless.

If it seems like there are a growing number of sex offenders these days, that's because there is - to a point. (We'll get back to that in a minute.) According to 2022 information, there are 18,089 registered sex offenders in Minnesota.

The evening news is filled with information about the release of sex offenders in to the community after their sentence has been served - even here in the Northland. And thanks to Minnesota's Community Notification Act, the news of those releases is considered public information. Included with the details of the release is the location where they will be living.

By law, the authorities have to notify residents when a Level 3 convicted sex offender will be released into their community. At the same time, that release is evaluated:

"The Community Notification Act requires a risk level be assigned to offenders who are considered to be predatory offenders.  Pending release from prison, offenders are assigned a Risk Level (1, 2, or 3) and are required to register their address with local law enforcement agencies."

Level 3 sex offenders are considered to have the "highest potential to be involved in a future sex crime".

While authorities are required to make that notification about Level 3 sex offenders, they don't have to be proactive about Level 1 or 2 sex offenders unless the offender becomes non-compliant. Level 3 sex offenders are the ones you'll generally hear and see in the media.

At the same time, the authorities are only required to make that public notification at the time of release; once a released sex offender has been living at an address for a while, their presence in a neighborhood is no longer publicized.

So - back to our question: How do you know if a sex offender lives near you in Minnesota? There's a database for that.

Judge gavel, scales of justice and law books in court

The Minnesota Department of Corrections is charged with maintaining the database of released sex offenders. They collect the data, update it, and make it public via a searchable statewide database. All you need is the city or zip code that you want to search for.

Here are the steps to find out if a sex offender lives near you in Minnesota:

The law says that the state has to maintain the address of all released Level 3's.  However, reality is that many of these individuals will choose to move somewhere else but not notify the authorities. This makes them non-compliant. That's why one of the search options on the Minnesota Department of Corrections website also includes a list of "registrants subject to public notification whose address is currently unknown".

Incidentally, what are the difference between a Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 sex offender?  Here are the determinations according to the Minnesota Department of Corrections:

  • Level 1 Sex Offender:  Tier I Offenses - Sex crimes of a non-violent nature committed with persons of the age of majority. Tier I offenses require registration on the Sexual Offender Registry for a minimum of 15 years, with yearly verification.  Risk Level 1 indicates a low risk that the sex offender will re-offend.
  • Level 2 Sex Offender:  Tier II Offenses - Sex crimes of a non-violent nature, but involving a minor.  Tier II offenses require registration on the Sexual Offender Registry for a minimum of 25 years, with verification twice a year.  Risk Level 2 indicates a moderate risk that the sex offender will re-offend.
  • Level 3 Sex Offender:  Tier III Offenses - Sex crimes of a violent and/or non-violent nature involving adults and/or minors. Level 3 offenses are the most serious types of sex crimes. Tier III offenses require registration on the Sexual Offender Registry for the duration of the offender’s lifetime, with verification on a quarterly basis. Risk level 3 indicates a high risk that the sex offender will re-offend.

Earlier we mentioned that the perception is that there are more sex offenders these days than there might have been in the past. Speaking in general terms, there are two things in play that work together to drive those numbers up. One is that more sex crimes are reported these days; in years past, a variety of factors may have kept some from reporting the crimes against them. At the same time, the registry database is also growing in number from people who are registered in one state but move to another; their names don't come off of the original states database.

Innocent victim of rape in white sheet

It's worth noting that the purpose of this article is not to sensationalize criminal acts - of a sexual nature or other - in any way. At the same time, each individual is always innocent until proven guilty. Human beings also have the right to live their life in privacy - as long as they are following the laws that they need to abide by. The general purpose of this article is to provide an answer for someone who has the question; many people are unaware of how you go about obtaining information that - while it might be sensitive in nature - is public information.

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