Reporting Aristea Brady
GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. (WCCO) – A predatory offender is moving to the area — that’s the headline that motivated more than 200 Golden Valley residents to show up Monday night to voice their concerns at a community meeting.
Convicted pedophile Clarence Opheim is expected to be transferred to a halfway house in Golden Valley next week. Opheim has been civilly committed for nearly 20 years after serving a sentence for predatory acts.The 64-year-old admitted to molesting 29 children, many of them young boys.
He’s the first patient from the Minnesota Sex Offender Program to be released to a halfway house.
The meeting lasted for more than two hours at the Perpich Center for the Arts. Not only was the auditorium full, there was an even an overflow room full of concerned community members.
Several of the questions centered on what would happen once Opheim moves in.
Golden Valley Police made it clear that Opheim is on a provisional discharge from the state hospital, which means he could be picked up for violating any of 32 different conditions.
Still, neighbors question if that’s enough to stop him from re-offending.
Here’s a moment from the meeting.
How many of you have had conversations with friends about what you would do to somebody if you found out he touched your kid?, one resident asked.
Many in the audience raised their hands.
The resident stated: I turn to the city councilmen and say: think twice before you allow another half way house. Thank you.
Some residents asked about the specifics of Opheim’s surveillance. Another asked if it was possible to stop his transfer to Golden Valley altogether.
The halfway house Opheim will live is near the intersection of Highway 55 and Zane Avenue. He will have to wear a GPS ankle bracelet and be subject to random drug and alcohol checks.
Hennepin County Attorney George Widseth described the oversight over Opheim as a perpetual microscope.
A panel– made up of the county attorney, the Department of Human Services, the Golden Valley Police Department and others organizations– says while it can’t prohibit released offenders from residing in Golden Valley, the conditions for his release ensure the community will stay safe.
“We’d like to stand with you,” a the panel said. “We’d like to be a resource for you. We believe the approach that we’ve created for this is a way to provide more security for the community, not less.”
Opheim was originally set to be released without community notification. Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill changing that.
As for what parents in Golden Valley should do, psychologists encourage parents to use the as an opportunity to have an open discussion about safety.
More information regarding Opheim’s release is available at the Golden Valley Police Department’s website.