Saturday, July 7, 2007

The Safety/Risk Management Card

"We WILL be neighbors," stated James D'Angelo, CEO of Nexus, which operates Mille Lacs Academy - the juvenile sex offender facility soon to be built right down the street from my house - that is, if D'Angelo has his way. Although Jim D'Angelo has absolutely no right putting his sex offenders smack dab in the middle of our rural residential neighborhood, he seems like a guy accustomed to getting what he wants. You probably know the type: syrupy sweet and oh so charming when in public, a real cut-throat asshole when there's no witnesses and he shows you his true colors.. After our one and only telephone conversation, I actually jotted down notes describing all of the methods he tried to manipulate me with. His methods were quite obvious: the friendly approach, the "let's be reasonable" approach, the guilt trip, the fatherly disappointment, the stern fatherly scolding, the angry chastising, the loud nasty shouting personal attack, back to the friendly approach, and finally, after nothing else worked - flattery. But my favorite is when the CEO of this corporation told me I could help design the buildings, plan the landscaping, and he'd give me an "easement" so that I could continue to ride my horse on the 38 acres! Apparently D'Angelo didn't realize that although I've lived with my head under a rock, it's been by choice. I'm not originally from Onamia... [see "Epidemic of Stupid" on this blog.]

When I voiced neighborhood concerns about the dangerous nature of many of these convicted sex offenders, many who have proven to be violent, D'Angeo interupted me with, "Don't try playing the safety/risk management card! It won't work!" So, of course, come the next city council meeting, that is exactly what I did. And you know what? I think he was right. The townfolk don't seem to understand about the safety issue. They believe what they read in the paper - and the Mille Lacs Messenger, according to editor Kevin Anderson, does not print anything at all about escapes, runaways, assaults, or other crimes at the Academy. He told me that if they did, there wouldn't be room in the paper to print them all... So the Onamians think there are no safety issues. What's even worse, is that when anyone dares talk about what these young men are capable of doing, the Onamians jump to the "poor troubled boy's" defense. How can you be so mean to those boys?! "They rake leaves for the seniors," says Steve Bye.

And that is exactly my concern, folks. The seniors. I'm not personally afraid of physical harm. I'm not afraid of one of the inmates escaping, coming over here to rape or fondle someone (although I do have some pretty darn cute goats I worry about...) My concern is that when one of them gets loose, their primary goal is to get the heck out of Dodge. And I don't know how desperate they are, but I know that while trying to gain a set of car keys, if one of them shoved my 83 year old mother, who lives alone down one of their most convenient escape routes, well, her bones would shatter. She's so fragile, she'd easily break a hip if they even breathed on her.

On Sunday, May 13, a fifteen year old sex offender went missing. The sheriff's deputy was canvassing our neighborhood for him. We only knew about it because the deputy stopped and told the neighbors to "be on the lookout". The Mille Lacs Messenger never reported it, so the Onamians never read about it, so therefore they don't know that it happened. And of course, would they believe us? You're so mean to those boys!

While going door-to-door with our Petition, we heard many stories about escapes from the Mille Lacs Academy. We also heard of employees who have been injured by inmates. We heard stories of three grown men struggling to restrain one violent, out-of-control teenager. One of the neighbors had his van stolen by a runaway, yet Officer Bob, the town cop didn't mention it in his "safety report". Another neighbor barely stopped two escaped inmates from stealing their truck in the middle of the night, but of course, that story wasn't in the Mille Lacs Messenger either.

Yet, I'm not afraid for myself. I'm a Ted Bundy survivor, after all. But I'm really upset with Jim D'Angelo for the way he treated my mother at the city council meeting. Obviously, he is quite insensitive to her concerns. You'd think that those "poor troubled boys" were the only people who mattered.

Imagine things from her perspective. 83 years old. Happily living out the rest of her days. No worries. Now, like the rest of us, it's about all she can think about. She doesn't sleep. Her life has been greatly disrupted and the damn thing hasn't even been built yet. Her happiness is a thing of the past.

It's the not knowing if someone is looking in your window. What would I do if one of them comes here to steal my car? Is tonight the night? My mom is cool. But in the back of her mind, there's now the constant possible threat. This sex offender facility will rob her of any peace of mind. Sure, an escapee could stop by at any time now. They are only a mile away now. But the thing is: my mom didn't KNOW they were there! I saw no reason to worry her. She thought that the Mille Lacs Academy, as it's name misled her to believe, was a private military school for normal boys.

And that Jim D'Angelo would do this to my mom makes me more than a little mad. This is a man who gets paid more than $267,015 per year to muscle his way into a neighborhood which has cried "FOUL!" and he doesn't care who he hurts.

[Companies like Nexus - i.e. private commercial sex offender facilities, prisons, correctional facilities, drug treatment, and halfway houses, etc. - are almost always unwelcome in communities, especially when built near home-based daycare, elderly widows, and other vulnerable citizens. Research has indicated there is a pattern of such unwanted "toxic" institutions choosing locations where resistance to their strong-arm tactics would be weak. The Bradbury neighborhood, for example, is limited in population and lacks the financial resources to fight back against the wealthy, powerful corporation that targeted them.]

There are many people in our neighborhood, each having their own objections to Nexus' building here. Safety is an issue. Some have children or grandchildren. There are three day-care centers nearby. There are elderly single women like my mom. But safety isn't the only issue. There are people who worry about the severe drop in their property values. There are those who are happy with the way things have been and don't want change. Some of us disapprove of the local government and the way things were mishandled. We all have reasons to be angry.

Oh, the safety/risk management card is still in this game. It just ain't layin' face up on the table where everyone can see it... For now, D'Angelo keeps it hidden up his sleeve.

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