By Evan Kruegel
There are 115 registered sex offenders living in Williams County, with the majority of them in Williston. It`s an alarming number for what was once a small town. But it isn`t just the large number that has residents on edge. North Dakota has some very lenient laws on where sex offenders are allowed to live after they`ve served their sentences, and Williston residents are questioning the regulations.
- We do not have residency restrictions for other criminals who have served their time, so why just ex-sex offenders? Once they've served their time, they should be able to go and live anywhere they want, just like everybody else.
North Dakota is one of just a handful of states with no law prohibiting sex offenders from living near schools or daycares, and that makes parents very uneasy.
"It`s disgusting, its disturbing, I cant believe North Dakota law enforcement even allows them near the schools. I understand they have rights as a human, but our children should have rights to safety and to feel safe as well," said parent Pamela Enno.
- Yes they have rights, and not all ex-sex offender has harmed children, which you seem to think. And the fact is, most kids are killed by other kids in schools, have you watched the news lately?
According to the Attorney General`s office, seven convicted sex offenders live within one mile of the Williston middle school, including a high-risk child offender. Parents know offenders are out there, but having them so close to their children is alarming.
"You`re going to find offenders everywhere you go, but within such a close proximity to a school is unacceptable to me," said parent Jennifer Loomer.
Residents on social media were equally disturbed by the loose regulations. One man said "as a single father of a six year old, that makes me sick."
Another said, "This is just wrong. I thought there were laws about the distance from schools, this is disgusting."
Williston police released a statement saying convicted sex offenders have always been released back into society once they serve their sentence. And it`s their duty to inform the public when an offender moves to the area. But by state law, there`s not much else they can do. For parents, the only option is to make their children aware of the situation, and try to keep them a safe distance away from the offenders.
"That`s pretty much all we can do, and I guess our children`s freedom is gone too, because I don`t feel comfortable letting my children walk to and from school now."
- Then don't! Be a parent and take them to school, or walk with them to the bus stop. Stop letting fear run your life, and trampling on others rights just so you can "feel" safe.
Police say until the state legislature makes some changes, the situation will remain the same.