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The Dakota County Sheriff’s Office has been awarded a three-year, $450,000 federal grant to help the department protect women from violent crimes and prosecute their attackers.

The grant, distributed in $150,000 annual installments by the Department of Justice, will fund evidence gathering on cases of domestic and sexual violence, as well as stalking-related electronic crimes. It will pay for one full-time (civilian) worker trained in computer forensic examinations to join the Dakota County Electronic Crime Task Force. A part-time coordinator will also join the staff to act as a liaison between the courts and the victim and help improve the judicial process.

In the past, the Electronic Crime Task Force has teamed up with 360 communities and the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women to work with victims to safely recover evidence against suspects and prosecute them. A two-year grant for that program expired Jan. 1.

Sheriff Tim Leslie said that the new grant will help pay to keep someone investigating those offenses as their primary duty. The examiner will sift through messages on a woman’s phone or other devices to find evidence of harassment, stalking and violations of no-contact orders.

“The goal is to hold offenders accountable,” Leslie said. “Once they’ve moved into stalking behaviors, the obsession has grown so great that there’s a greater likelihood of violence against the victim. We want to make sure they don’t get to that point.”

The department typically handles about 125 harassment and restraining order cases a year, Leslie said. In at least three instances, investigators found “snoop software” on a woman’s car, computer or phone to track her whereabouts. Those cases led to felony charges.

“We mean business,” Leslie said.

Every Dakota County law enforcement agency will benefit from the grant, because the examiner will also work on related cases for other departments.

Job openings will be posted for the two civilian openings at governmentjobs.com/careers/dakota.

Liz Sawyer

Savage

City to hold council candidate forum

The Savage Chamber of Commerce will moderate a public forum Oct. 17 between the three candidates running for City Council.

Each candidate is expected to field prepared questions from residents and local businesses ahead of the Nov. 7 general election. The forum, which will be aired live on Savage TV, begins at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

Incumbent Gene Abbott, who has served on the government body since 2006, is running for his fourth term. Challengers Bob Coughlen, an architectural designer and retired Army reservist, and Carl J. Boudreau, a retired U.S. Coast Guard chief, are also vying for the two open seats.

To submit a question for the candidates, contact the Savage Chamber of Commerce at mail@savagechamber.com or 952-894-8876.

Savage is the only municipality in Scott County with open city council seats this fall.

For more information on polling places and times, visit pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us.

Liz Sawyer

Dakota County

Senators to host affordable housing summit

Two south metro state senators will host a bipartisan community summit on affordable housing in Dakota County.

Greg Clausen, DFL-Apple Valley, and Dan Hall, R-Burnsville, will hold the meeting from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Oct. 25 at St. John Neumann Church, 4030 Pilot Knob Road, Eagan. It will include a panel discussion about how the shortage of affordable housing affects the community, including its elected officials, employers, faith leaders and county staff.

Developers who are building affordable housing will also be present to talk about their challenges and recommendations for change.

Erin Adler

Prior Lake

City to host open house for Hwy. 21 project

Prior Lake is re-evaluating project alternatives for its downtown road network, which will reconstruct two minor arterial roads that act as the regional connection to the greater Twin Cities.

Leaders say that Hwy. 13, a state roadway, and County Road 21 make up an interchange that has long needed improvements. After multiple studies, a suitable solution was never reached between city, county and state officials.

“The current intersection design poses safety and operational concerns and lacks the capacity to move traffic efficiently, both for today and in the long term,” reads a project overview soliciting public comment. Potential changes will be assessed on how they affect traffic, and on pedestrian safety and accessibility.

Officials will hold an open house Tuesday, Oct. 10, at City Hall to discuss the project.

A brief presentation will begin at 5:30 p.m., but residents are invited to stop by anytime between 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. to ask questions and provide feedback on four possible reconstruction plans.

A community survey is now open for alternative suggestions on the project webpage at movingforward13-21.com.

In 2005, Scott County completed the Highway 21 Corridor Study, which established a long-term concept plan for the highway between County Road 82 and County Road 87. Although the County Board adopted a recommendation based on safety, mobility and access, the study raised concerns regarding the economic vitality of downtown Prior Lake, which led to requests for further study.

Information on the development can be found on the city’s website.

Liz Sawyer