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People living near violent sex offenders push for changes to state's Chapter 980 law

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Kristine Knickmeier, Kelly Kopecky and Tom Hergert did not know each other before last summer, but are now united in a fight to make changes to how violent sex offenders are placed under the state's Chapter 980 law. 

Knickmeier lives in Stoughton. She can see one home housing violent sex offenders out her front door. There's another down the road. 

"It does affect people and you never know the next time there’s a for sale sign, who’s moving in," she said. 

She started looking into the law in 2014 and got in touch with Kopecky after seeing her concerns when two violent sex offenders were placed in her neighborhood in August 2019. 

"It just doesn’t seem right, not just because he can see in my yard or because I have another one half a mile away or anything like that, she’s going through the same problems, they’re all going through the same problems, something has to change," said Kopecky. 

Chapter 980 oversees the civil commitments of sexual violent persons. 

In Kopecky's case, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm said in 2000, his office initiated a Chapter 980 proceeding so that one of the violent sex offenders living near her could be civilly committed as long as doctors said he was a sexually violent person, and that allowed him to keep the man off the streets of Milwaukee for an additional 20 years. 

"This is the end of a very long process that ultimately returns somebody to the community that you don't want returned to your community. There's no way of sugar coating that, so I'm not going to sugar coat it," Chisholm said at a community notification meeting, "What I can tell you, and what I'm here to tell you, at the end of that long process results, ultimately in determination by a judge, that this person is appropriate to be released back into the community."

After that meeting, Kopecky started researching, reaching out to legislators, and speaking with others who were also upset with placement in their neighborhoods. 

"Everywhere these placements are being made the neighborhoods are up in arms," said Tom Hergert. 

They shared some of their concerns with CBS 58. They would like more transparency and open public involvement of the placing of the sex offenders, including notification and meetings prior to the placements. They would like authorities to consider the proximity to other sexual violent offenders when placing them, as well as the history of the families neighboring the homes, like considering their mental health or history of any abuse, rape or violence. There are also concerns with how long designated homes will be housing violent sex offenders and how these homes impact their property values. They also have safety concerns. 

They've also been working with their lawmakers to make some amendments to Chapter 980 based on their experiences. A draft is in the very early stages. 

"There are some good changes as long as they make it to the final bill," said Kopecky. 




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AudraLeanne 13 days ago
Where are they supposed to live? Let me guess you dont care as long as it's not next to you... what about the murderer next door you dont know about because their isnt a murder registry just a sex offender registry that is actually full of a lot of innocent people but you could care less right because once they are pegged with that title it's like they become diseased and no town wants them there. This is ridiculous these people are made to complete LONG sentences and then once out are on a registry for life which is a torture sentence because everyone uses it inappropriately to harm them not even knowing their stories just simply because they are on the registry its sickening. Have any of those offenders caused any of you harm?? I doubt it so why not return the favor and leave them alone they are going through enough. It's already hard enough on them to find housing and work without lonely wanna be important people trying to cause more issues. Remember this it's not just them who suffers but their families they may have living with them suffer to for your uncompassionate nose in the air behavior. And to the police officer who told that man he should get a gun that is absolutely ridiculous. Just because someone has been forcefully placed on the registry doesnt automatically make them dangerous. Yall need an education so please look this up. The recidivism rates for sex offenders are lower than most other crimes but that's not talked about right??? America is a failure when it comes to this topic.
Dennis 13 days ago
The hysteria about "sex offenders" goes to prove that the United States isn't all it's cracked up to be. We're safer than we've ever been, yet terrified of everything. Politicians get votes from us, and the media gets ratings from us, by selling panic. Stop buying!
Arax 13 days ago
I can say that I am ashamed to live in this country for reasons like this one- really? putting people away just because you think these people aren't safe? No one is safe in this society but you go on living your life and let others live theirs. The registry and all of its related collateral garbage needs to be abolished once and for all
SethHodges72 13 days ago
This is America. If you don't like who lives in your community YOU have the right to move. You don't get to take away another person's right to live where they choose. That would be unAmerican.
Dustin 13 days ago
Once a sentence is served, it's done. Those released have to go somewhere, and their right to make a life for themselves takes precedence of your right to "feel safe."

Statistically, over 95% of sex crime is committed by those not on the sex offender registry, remaining consistent with pre-Megan's Law studies that showed that over 95% of sex crimes were committed by those without priors of any kind. Recidivism among sex offender registrants is the lowest of any other class of criminal except murderers, and the overwhelming majority of THAT is for status offenses - perfectly normal conduct criminalized by their status as registrants, none of which have the first thing to do with the commission of an offense in the first place.

If it bothers you that much, buy every house in your neighborhood - that's the only way you have any say in who moves in there. If you can't do that, move yourself. If you think civil commitment (read: re-imprisoning and calling it mental health) is the answer, I would argue your extreme paranoia, likely caused by misinformation from our current "if it bleeds it leads" media, should make you a candidate for the civil commitment you support.
Lawrence 17 days ago
"they would like authorities to consider the proximity to other sexual violent offenders when placing them, as well as the history of the families neighboring the homes, like considering their mental health or history of any abuse, rape or violence."

And exactly how would the State gather family history of the proposed neighbors? "We're from the State and we'd like to know if your family has or had psychos or perverts. Especially the perverts".
Oh that should really work well.

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