About 45 people came to the Brainerd Police Department Monday to learn about a Level Three sex offender who has moved to Brainerd.
Anthony Kostek, sentenced in 1992 for two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct, moved to Brainerd Monday, prompting police and the Minnesota Department of Corrections to hold an informational meeting to help residents prepare themselves, as well as learn general information about sex offenders and how the state handles them.
Getting Kostek's information out to the public also helps law enforcement officials do their jobs, said Steve King, an officer with the DOC who headed Monday's meeting.
"For a sex offender, the biggest asset they have in their tool box is the veil of secrecy," said King. "The more anonymous they are, the better they can get around."
King said Kostek is one of 108 registered sex offenders living in Brainerd, and one of 156 living in Crow Wing County. He is, however, the only Level 3 sex offender.
Kostek, 34, served five years in prison before being released in 1997 on supervised probation, which was completed in 2000. He is not wanted by police and has served the time in prison the court imposed upon him. However, he is still subject to community notification laws.
Concerns the public expressed early in the meeting had to do with where Kostek is living, at a residence in the 500 block of South Sixth Street.
One of the conditions of Kostek's location to Brainerd was that he must not be near schools, parks or playgrounds -- anywhere minors congregate.
"Define 'near,'" shouted Crow Wing County Commissioner Terry Sluss, who on Sunday sent a letter to the DOC asking the department to reconsider the placement of Kostek at a residence in the 500 block of South Sixth Street because of its location near four public schools. "(Kostek's residence) is a block away," from the schools, Sluss said.
King said there are no laws restricting where a sex offender may live in Minnesota, and it wasn't up to the DOC to "place" Kostek anywhere. Neither the Brainerd Police Department nor the Minnesota Department of Corrections may direct where Kostek may live or work.
"Offender's find their own place. We don't shop them around," said King. "Kostek has ties to this area. He's not an outsider."
King noted that of the state's 13,000 registered sex offenders living in Minnesota, about 4,100 are in the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. If the state passed a law stating sex offenders couldn't live within 1,500 feet of a school, the only place a sex offender could live in those two cities would be in the St. Paul stockyards.
"If it's more strict, these offenders will move to Greater Minnesota," said King. "If you have an issue, call your congressman."
"I did," responded Sluss.
Other conditions of Kostek's release include he must have no direct or indirect contact with minors or his victims. King said if anyone sees something wrong, they should call police.
Most recently, Kostek was sentenced Oct. 18, 2002, in Morrison County District Court for fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance.
Kostek was released Monday to move to a residence in the 500 block of South Sixth Street in Brainerd. He will be supervised by the Minnesota Department of Corrections until May 21.
The intent of the notification law is to give the public adequate notice so they can develop plans to prepare themselves, said King.
King warned against using the information from the meeting as a means to harass Kostek.
"I don't want to see a good citizen of Brainerd become a criminal because of harassment," said King. "The best way to have an offender reoffend is to take away his stability. All I'm asking of the community is to let him make his decisions."
Brainerd Police Chief John Bolduc described the question and answer portion of the meeting as "lively," with people expressing both concern about Kostek moving into Brainerd but also the feeling that the Brainerd Police Department and the DOC were doing everything they could.
Starting in 1997, sex offenders who have completed their sentences are rated by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension according to their likelihood to reoffend.
The three levels of severity range from Level 1 offenders who are considered a minor risk up to Level 3, which means the person is the most likely to reoffend.
Level 3 offenders have been determined to be at the highest risk of all sexual predators for reoffending.
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