Latest is a Level 3 offender on West 140th Street
With about 18,000 Minnesotans subject to registration after conviction for sex offenses, kidnapping or false imprisonment, Dakota County’s 552 isn’t a big number.
Hennepin and Ramsey counties have far more — 2,677 and 1,348, respectively, according to Mark Bliven, director of risk assessment and community notification for the Minnesota Department of Corrections.
Burnsville has 88 of Dakota County’s registered offenders. But at least two neighborhoods may feel they’ve hit an unlucky jackpot.
That’s because both have homes owned by a lawyer, David Busch, who is known for buying properties and renting them at low rates to people who are hard to house, including registered offenders and other convicts.
For the second time in less than a year, a Level 3 sex offender — the classification of offenders deemed most at risk to reoffend — is moving into a Busch property in Burnsville.
The latest is Denard Alexander Sutton, 48, whose last conviction, in 2011, was for third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor girl that occurred in Burnsville.
Released from custody last August, Sutton is now living in a Busch house on the 2400 block of West 140th Street. He’s one of four registered offenders in the house and the only Level 3 offender, according to Mark Mehl, adult probation supervisor for Dakota County Community Corrections.
Last September two Level 3 offenders moved into a Busch house in the vicinity of Aspen Drive and Parkwood Drive. Two Level 3 offenders still live there, Mehl said.
Level 3 offenders trigger the broadest community notification requirements. An anxious crowd of about 170 attended last September’s notification meeting at City Hall, which also covered a third Level 3 offender moving around the same time to a different address in Burnsville.
A May 29 meeting on Sutton’s move to West 140th Street drew only about 25, but the atmosphere was still tense.
“What’s wrong with this picture when you’re introducing this person into a house with three other newly released prisoners?” a man asked. “Now you’ve got four of those people in one house.”
“All of them are congregating in this one street,” a woman said. “When is enough enough? We call it Creeper Street. My son’s not allowed to go that way at all.”
Fact is, private landlords such as Busch provide badly needed housing for prisoners released from custody, Blevin said.
“Those who get out of prison, especially if you’re a Level 3, there aren’t a lot of options in many circumstances,” said Bliven, who conducted the meeting with Mehl. “So yes, sometimes you’ll have a property where there will be more opportunity for people coming out of prison.”
An attempt to reach Busch for comment through his former law firm was unsuccessful.
“The congregate housing model is not appealing to anyone ... but it’s the reality of what they have available to them,” Mehl said.
One neighborhood resident worried that the house doesn’t appear to get many visits from corrections people or police. But that’s for a reason, Mehl said.
“Quite honestly, in the past year-plus, it’s been very quiet,” he said. “The house has been stable. If the person is not on ISR (“intensive supervised release” for high-risk offenders), you’re not going to see the regular cars rolling up like you would with ISR. Now you will.”
The house is “not a rehab center,” he said. “This is just a private house where the owner is willing to rent to people that have criminal history.”
In addition to Sutton’s 2011 conviction, he was convicted of three counts of first- and second-degree criminal sexual conduct in 1999.
His victim in all those crimes was a girl he was “very well-acquainted with,” Bliven said. He has a history of additional sexual contact with “numerous” male and female children, ages 3-17, without charges or convictions, according to authorities. Contact included sexual touching and penetration.
Sutton has “used threats to gain compliance with his victims,” Burnsville Police Chief Tanya Schwartz wrote in a letter to residents.
Elements of intensive supervision include house arrest, periods of GPS monitoring, random drug and alcohol testing, unannounced residential and work visits by corrections agents, a mandatory 40 hours per week of “constructive activity” and, in the case of Sutton and others, completion of sex offender treatment.
Stable housing is an important element in keeping people from reoffending, authorities say.
Level 3 offenders are placed on ISR because “we say that those are the ones that have the highest number of risk factors,” Bliven said. “In reality they have the lowest rate for sexual offending of any of the registrants. It’s essentially about a zero percent recidivism rate for those on ISR.”
The restrictions of ISR ease as four phases of the program are successfully completed. If Sutton gets off ISR in the next three years, he probably won’t be living in the house on West 140th Street anymore, Bliven said.