Concerned parents and citizens met with San Juan County Sheriff Ron Krebs on Thursday, March 28, to inquire about a local juvenile sex offender.
“The goal is to not create a monster, and have him end up making poor choices over and over,” Krebs said.
Krebs explained that there are 23 sex offenders registered countywide. To see a map of registered sex offenders in your area, visit https://offenderwatch.com. Offenders are assigned levels in accordance with their crime, with Level 1 as the lowest level and Level 3 as the highest. Levels indicate how likely the perpetrator is to reoffend; it’s unlikely if the offender is a Level 1, and the likelihood increases from there, Krebs said.
Each offender is interviewed by the sheriff’s office. Krebs told the Journal prior to the meeting that he looks carefully at each person’s record and assesses what level to place them for the safety of the community as well as the offender. Regardless of the level, the department checks in on the criminal several times a year to ensure they are both living where they are registered, and, to the degree that officers can best determine, behaving in an appropriate manner. Should the person move, they have 24 hours to notify the sheriff’s office.
In the case of a juvenile, the department monitors them more closely. Krebs said officers communicate with the minor offender on a daily basis.
The youth who prompted the meeting had been previously charged with exposing himself to two 7-year-old girls. According to Krebs, he is not to go within 300 feet of the victims or to contact or engage with any child, or go to places children frequent, such as elementary schools or playgrounds, and he is barred from using social media.
Juvenile Court Administrator Linnea Anderson also attended the meeting and added that every youth registered with the juvenile court is monitored. She explained that juvenile court constantly looks at all the aspects of the youth’s life, including who is supervising them, and the court works closely with the troubled youth’s entire family to try to set the child on a better path.
“It’s important to remember that these are kids. They don’t even know who they are yet,” Anderson said.
Changes in behavior and grades are noted and reported to the judge. She also added that the more information they have to work with, the better. Krebs encouraged anyone who sees suspicious behavior to call the sheriff’s department.
“Not all reports are going to be actionable,” he said, adding that the calls are recorded and can help officers build a case.
Anderson also discussed actions parents can take to protect their children.
“Never underestimate the power of relationships,” she said. She continued, adding that if a child has a strong relationship with their parents, not only is the youth more inclined to talk to them when something is wrong, but the parent will also be able to identify problems in the youth.
“Teaching our kids and having open conversations is one of the best things we can do,” SAFE San Juans Program Manager and legal advocate Courtney Smith said. SAFE San Juans is a local nonprofit that works to stop domestic abuse and sexual assault. Educating children also makes them feel safer, she continued, because they know what to do should someone approach them in an inappropriate way.
Smith encouraged everyone to visit SAFE San Juans’ office because the nonprofit provides services for secondary victims and all community members. SAFE also offers community presentations about preventing childhood sexual abuse, she added.
Smith noted that the Stand Up Men, a group of male volunteers who are part of SAFE San Juans, is always looking for new members and can be found every Friday at noon on the lawn of the San Juan County Courthouse.
The subject of at-risk and vulnerable girls also arose, and how the community can work together to protect them.
“Mentorship makes a huge difference in these kids’ lives,” Anderson said.“Mentors are special because they don’t have an agenda, like a teacher or parent, they are just there for the student.”
Prior to the meeting, Anderson told the Journal that The Joyce Sobel Family Resource Center has an amazing mentorship program.
Anderson shared the story of one particular youth who had been truant from school and whose grades were falling. She looked at the student’s records and realized she could almost pinpoint the shift to an exact date. When asked, the child said the change occurred when her mentor moved.
“Becoming a mentor is one of the biggest impacts you can have on these kids,” she said.
To learn more about SAFE San Juans, visit safesj.org or call 360-378-5209.