A convicted sex offender will live just one block from the West Bend High School complex. Police announced the state is placing 29-year-old Justin Rathke starting Monday in his father’s apartment at 763 S. River Road, which is just several hundred feet from the schools.
Rathke was convicted of second-degree sexual assault of a child in 2008.
“It’s unsettling to realize that,” neighbor Cher Birno said Friday. “I know they need a place to stay, but find somewhere else.”
But people in West Bend don’t have much of a choice. The state leaves sex offender residency restrictions up to each municipality and, as it turns out, West Bend doesn’t have any.
“Maybe we can tighten that up a little bit,” district four alderman Randy Koehler said.
Koehler lives about a half-mile from Rathke’s new home. The alderman is glad police and detectives will have Rathke on constant surveillance, including GPS monitoring and 42 requirements like no unsupervised contact with minors. He also cannot set foot on school property or leave his house before 8 a.m. or after 1:45 p.m.
“I have the utmost faith in [the West Bend Police],” Koehler said. “But, it’s the one-hour span where he may not be supervised that I’m worried about.”
I am not one who thinks that residency laws regarding sex offenders do any good. There are a number of studies out there that support my thoughts. While it gives everybody the heebee jeebees to be near a sex offender, the reality is that it is as easy for him to drive 2 miles to find a target as it is for him to walk across the street. And while we know who this guys is, what he looks like, and where he lives, we don’t know anything about the other people in the area. At least we know the risk if we see this guy. We don’t know the risk for the other guy on the street who might be a murderer, sex offender, thief, drug dealer, or anything else.
The same rules apply. Be aware of your surroundings, don’t put yourself in a dangerous situation, and, if you are capable, arm yourself.