Over the course of seven days, three convicted violent sexual offenders were released back into Edmonton.
Their victims range from children to seniors and at least one, Kequahtooway, is known to the Internet Child Exploitation unit.
Police have reason to believe all will commit another violent offence.
“Their sentences were all different and they just happened to be released in a very short period of time, which is unfortunate because that brings some fear to the community,” said Dan Jones, a criminologist at Norquest College.
Jones, a former police officer, said the public warnings issued by the Edmonton Police Service are intended to ensure people are aware, attentive and keeping themselves safe.
“We don’t need any more people being victimized by these individuals but also, in order to do that, they need some semblance of a normal life: a job, a place to live.”
That adjustment can be hard for some members of the public to accept, Jones said.
“They have to be compassionate and kind with those individuals — and I know that’s another thing people have a hard time rectifying … because they’re violent sex offenders, but they’re also people, and we need to work with them to help society be safe from them.”
The slew of public safety notifications from police could be triggering for some people, a local psychologist added.
“A lot of times, it’s managing the emotional response that we have,” said Justine Elliot. “Sometimes that’s just recognizing we aren’t going to know where these people are.
“We never have for-sure answers for a lot of things.”
Elliot said there are ways to manage that uncertainty, including coping mechanisms like grounding yourself, breathing, even just focusing on things we are certain of or have control over.
“That could be reminding ourselves of things that keep us safe. Maybe it’s knowing that we have a great police force here. They’re there to keep us safe. We have a phone on us to call 911. We have a lot of stuff in place that can build in a sense of security.”
And, Elliot stresses, people don’t have to cope on their own.
“For a lot of people who have experiences of sexual trauma, something like getting this notification is triggering and sometimes that can bring up memories or thoughts of traumatic incidents that they’ve been through.
“I also suggest people seek some professional help. There’s a lot of different strategies to manage triggers.”
These notifications also present an opportunity for parents to start or continue a dialogue with their children about safety and trust, one investigator points out.
“Spending time with them on their devices, building that trust is the first step,” ICE Sgt. Kerry Shima said.
“The second step is having those children understand when something goes wrong — whether it’s in-person with a stranger, in-person with someone they know very well, in-person with a family member, or online with a stranger or online with someone they know — they can come to the parents with full confidence that they’re not going to be shamed, that they’re not going to be in trouble.”
In deciding to issue these types of warnings, Shima said there’s a balance being considered.
“There’s a lot of debate around whether the public at large should know who’s being released from custody. There’s a balance that’s being tested right now about who needs to know and who wants to know and the privacy of these offenders who, in some cases, have served out their entire sentence already.”
All of the men have various court-ordered conditions, including not changing addresses unless approved, abiding by curfews, a ban on weapons, or not being allowed within 100 metres of anywhere a child under 16 would be.