DENVER — Do you know who is living next door to you? Ever since Jessica Ridgeway was kidnapped and killed, there’s been an increased awareness of sex offenders in our neighborhoods.
There are more than 15,000 convicted sex offenders in Colorado and most of them comply with the conditions of their release and check in when they are supposed to register.
But according to the Colorado Division of the U.S. Marshals Office, there are 886 sex offenders who are not where they are supposed to be.
Right now, they are conducting Operation Shepherd 2012. It is a multi-agency, three-week-long operation to make sure sex offenders are where they are supposed to be, and if not, they track them down.
This year, 35 agencies from all across the state are taking part.
They are up before dawn, hoping the element of surprise leads them to offenders that might not otherwise be found.
U.S. Marshal Deputy Chief Ken Deal said, “I don’t know that it is necessarily a greater problem in Colorado than any other state within the country, but we do know it is a problem. Things we need to do on the federal government to assist our state and locals is very important because we know there is a high rate of recidivism within these individuals. It’s important to recognize the problem and address it; we do that through our compliance efforts.”
In just the first three days, officials checked more than 700 addresses and made 16 arrests.
They also ran into road blocks along the way.
The team we were invited to ride with had information they thought would lead them to a fugitive sex offender who has been on the run for months.
ICE supervisor, John Fabbricatore said, “We had a hit on #24 — some information we checked yesterday, so we’re going to check that lead see if he’s at that address.”
They knocked on the last known address for the fugitive, and the suspect’s father answered. He told the officers that his son was in Syria.
Fabbricatore said, “It still leaves a lot of doors open for us. These are the kinds of problems we run into with cases like this, once these guys really disappear into the wind, it’s really hard to find them.”
Andrea and Jerry Colness came out to see what the commotion was about.
They had no idea that a convicted sex offender was registered just a few doors down. Andrea said, “We know the family, they’re wonderful people, but you never know. If he’s living there as long as he does what he’s supposed to, that’s fine. If he does something he’s not supposed to, that bothers me a lot.”
A short time later, the officers went to do a compliance check on another registered sex offender. They found him at the home where he was supposed to be, but they also found children in the home where he was staying, a violation of his probation.
Ken Deal said, “For the safety of children, get to know your community, know what’s in your community these are important steps to take. I think one of those steps is identifying registered sex offenders in these communities.”
The sex offender registry is public, and law enforcement officials encourage families to check out their neighborhoods.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation oversees the state’s registry.
Susan Medina, spokesperson for CBI said, “It`s a very big priority, we have a whole unit dedicated to maintaining that list. We post that information on the website. You can get background, statistics, there`s even a mapping unit on there where you can look at the state or drill down to a neighborhood so you can get a snapshot of what`s going on. The state of Colorado is a great resource. We offer a broad look at the state in general. But every day, sex offenders are moving, registering, de-registering, new ones are added to the list. What you saw a month ago may not be the next month.”
We checked with several cities around the metro area. Denver reports 2,043 sex offenders registered in the city. Aurora has 933. Lakewood has 465. Commerce City has 94. Littleton has 60. Parker reports 53 registered sex offenders.
Susan Medina said, “In the perfect world, you don`t have any, but that`s not the reality so what we do is utilize that sex offender list as one of the tools to be able to have accountability for these sex offenders, to ensure they are registering and to know where they are.”
Their maps show sexually violent predators, the worst type of sex offender. Colorado Springs has the most, with 14. Denver is second in the state with 12. For more information and the best ways to search for sex offenders in your particular neighborhood, follow this link to the sex offender registry.
In addition, each city and each county has its own registry, and officials encourage you to check as many as you can and as often as you can, as the information is changing daily.