Dave Roepke, Published August 18 2011
Sex offender living on downtown Fargo riverbank says he's been unable to obtain housing
“He’s going to be someplace,” Lt. Joel Vettel said. “We’d just rather know where he’s at.”
Jesse James Syverson, 24, a Level III offender with a pair of 2008 convictions for child pornography on his record, hasn’t been able to find a permanent residence in Fargo and registered his address as being along the Red River east of Second Street and Third Avenue North, police announced Wednesday.
Officers are making daily or nearly daily checks on Syverson, far more than is typical even for a high-risk offender, Vettel said.
Vettel said Syverson registered with police, as he’s required to by state law, on Monday, and officers have been trying to assist him in finding a place to live. Few landlords will rent to sex offenders, particularly to those assessed as Level III.
“There’s a handful who allow them, and they charge a premium rate,” Vettel said.
Syverson’s spot along the river is city-owned property. While homeless people have been shooed off river banks on prior occasions, Vettel said it’s usually on grounds they are posing a health hazard and police don’t typically go looking for makeshift camps there.
Vettel said Syverson’s site has just a sleeping bag and a few supplies.
“Is it illegal for him to live down there? No,” he said. “It’s not a crime to be homeless.”
Vettel said police expect Syverson will be able to get a place to live soon, as he is employed. He was released from the James River Correctional Center in Jamestown on July 31, and had briefly registered with police in Jamestown.
The Forum was unable to contact Syverson on Wednesday after searching along the river in the area east of Second Street and Third Avenue North – the intersection just southeast of the Howard Johnson north of the Fargo Civic Center.
Whitney Ryyth, the front desk manager at the hotel, said she had not heard of the notification, which she said was worrisome.
“It would be a concern. We have a lot of children who stay here,” she said.
At the same time, Ryyth said she understands it’s difficult for sex offenders to find housing. “I know it’s tough,” she said.
It’s not the first time the issue has come up in Fargo by any means. In late May, a sex offender registered as living in a car in a driveway on the north side. At the time, Vettel said it was the third time a Fargo offender had registered an address that was not a building – the prior two locations being a vehicle on a city street and another in a tent in a park.
Housing for sex offenders also emerged as an issue in Fargo last year, when the City Commission and the planning board denied the zoning permit for a group home aiming to house sex offenders and other recently released felons – despite police backing the concept, saying it would help prevent offenders from being homeless and unregistered.
Commissioners later in the year approved an ordinance tightening zoning restrictions for group homes, but a proposal to prohibit sex offenders from living near schools or parks was abandoned.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535