Posted: Aug 3, 2012 11:32 PM by Jacqui Heinrich
Updated: Aug 4, 2012 4:43 PM
Sex offenders are manipulating their identities to slip through the cracks of law enforcement; a new study funded by the United States Justice Department shows about 16 percent of them are living secretly among us.
It's also a problem here in Colorado Springs. About 1,100 registered sex offenders are living in the city, and about 100 are missing and wanted. They've dropped off the grid and could be living or working under an alias without anybody knowing.
It comes down to honesty; sex offenders are required by law to notify officials of their whereabouts and re-register when they move to a new location. It's a problem when offenders don't comply. "If they don't do that, they've dropped off the radar from where they may have been living. They could be anywhere, and statistically what's gonna happen with that is the offenders are more likely to re-offend because they're off the grid." Sergeant Bill Dehart of the Colorado Springs Police Department Registered Sex Offenders Unit says.
If an offender moves to Colorado Springs and doesn't notify local law enforcement, police won't know to check on them. The same goes for when offenders move from the city to somewhere else. "We will never know that they're living in our city unless someone sees a face on tv or the sex offender registry and recognizes that person and then they notify local law enforcement." Sgt. Dehart tells News 5.
1,100 registered sex offenders live in Colorado Springs, and those are only the known ones. Even scarier: nearly 1 in 6 offenders nationwide commit identity theft and lead double lives, letting them live or work near schools and playgrounds. Sgt. Dehart says, "I haven't had one that I know of specifically since I've been working in this unit that I can say, 'Yeah, that person was completely lying about their identity.' But again, if we don't know that they're living here, we don't really know."
Homeless sex offenders present a whole different problem; they easily slip through the cracks and avoid routine check ups, since they don't have a fixed residence listed for police to monitor. Police spend time and resources trying to track these people down, sometimes with no luck. Sgt. Dehart says, "They're always a concern because we always have those that are failing to register. And if they fail to register, they're not complying with registration laws, then what else is going on? Why are they not complying?"
Police say often it's a tip from the public that leads to an arrest. If you're concerned about your neighborhood you can find the sex offender registry on the Colorado Springs Police Department's website, and also monitor the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and FBI websites.