APPLETON - A sex offender is currently staying at a homeless shelter in the Fox Valley.
The situation is bringing a broader issue to light.
A state Supreme Court ruling allows sex offenders to reside at homeless shelters.
Herbert Wilkins is considered by the state to be a sexually violent person. He is now staying in the Fox Valley Warming Shelter in Appleton.
- Click here to see a community informational bulletin on Wilkins
- Click here to search Wisconsin's sex offender registry
Wilkins was convicted of sexual assault in Brown County, as well as Minnesota and Illinois.
The state believes Wilkins has the potential to re-offend.
He is no longer under supervision and is only required to wear a GPS monitor.
His presence in the Fox Valley has law enforcement on alert.
"We're monitoring him," said Tom Smith, sex offender specialist with the Department of Corrections.
Wilkins' movements show up thanks to a GPS monitoring bracelet. The convicted sex offender was released from the Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Facility last October. Last Friday he made his way to the Fox Valley Warming Shelter.
"He's looking for work is what he told me, he called from Green Bay, thought he had a job lined up in Green Bay but it fell through and he wanted to know if he could come here," said shelter executive director Brad Vivoda.
That in turn put the Appleton Police Department on alert.
"We're very concerned. Anytime you have a sex offender that is released into the community and doesn't have stable residency, it certainly makes the risk factors to re-offend a little bit greater, which makes us a little bit more concerned," said Sgt. Polly Olson.
The Appleton Police Department sent a notice out Monday with a note that Wilkins has the "potential to re-offend." The Department of Corrections says Wilkins is just one sex offender among many in the state. There are currently 480 sex offenders living in Outagamie County and 240 that live in Appleton.
"There is a need for the community to know who these registrants are," said Smith.
And Smith says through notifications, GPS monitoring and other methods that goal is being accomplished.
"The legislators gave us, I think, some great tools and we're using them to the full advantage here and we're doing what we can to make sure the community is safe and that is through public awareness," said Smith.
Vivoda says there are other sex offenders currently staying at the shelter. Vivoda also says the shelter encourages offenders like Wilkins to go where they can get the resources and help they need to start over.
"We work really hard, whether it's a bus ticket or getting ahold of family members, to get them transported back to where their resources are so they can get housing," said Vivoda.
Olson says they will monitor the sex offenders as best they can.
"It can be a deterrent to committing a crime, but it certainly isn't going to prevent someone from re-offending, however it does give us an accurate picture of where they are."
Sgt. Olson also says the community needs to do its part when it comes to awareness by checking the sex offender registry and being on the lookout for suspicious activity.
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