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Rapid Valley Community Alarmed By Sex Offender's Presence

February 25, 2014, 11:06 PM by Kevin Woster

Rapid Valley Community Alarmed By Sex Offender's Presence

You wouldn't know it by the joyful play of children during recess at Rapid Valley Elementary School, but the nearby community has been set on edge by news of a sex offender living in its midst.

Law enforcement officers say the rumors about Michael Pigney have ranged from mostly fact to outright fantasy.

"We had one report that he had abducted a child from the playground. Of course, we respond to that immediately and it was unfounded. Everything we've responded to has been unfounded," Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom said.

In truth, Pigney is one of 20 or 30 sex offenders living within a couple of miles of the school, which is just east of Rapid City. But he's different, too.

Pigney was spotlighted by the state when he recently finished his 15-year prison term because his crime involved a child and he was terminated from a sex-offender treatment program while on parole a few years ago. That sent him back to prison to serve his entire term.

Department of Corrections officials consider Pigney a risk in the community. He is one of only six sexual offenders released from the system since the practice began in December 2011. South Dakota Corrections Secretary Dennis Kaemingk said he doesn't regret issuing the public warning about Pigney's release, even though it generated some wild rumors.

"Our mission statement is public safety and this was done to promote public safety," Kaemingk said.

The law also applies to the safety of sex offenders who have served their time or are otherwise following laws and regulations. And Pigney and his property are protected under the law.

Thom reminds people of that, following incidents at the home a half-mile from Rapid Valley Elementary where Pigney lives for now. The address is listed online, along with others on the sex-offender registry.

Thom said the registry is an important tool but should be used responsibly, not to cause problems for those on the list. That has already happened to Pigney.

"The house where he lives, it's his sister's residence, was vandalized, eggs were thrown at it. If you look at the sex-offender registry site, if you take the information off the sex-offender registry site and harass sex offenders, it's actually a Class 6 felony in South Dakota." Thom said.

Most registered sex offenders on the list live in their communities without notice or trouble.

"By and large, most of them work and live in the community and you don't hear much about them. But again I would encourage people to use the sex-offender registry site, check areas around their residences periodically, if they have children and are concerned about sex offenders." Thom said.

Thom believes the site and its list are important, but it is provided to inform not inflame.

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