August 13, 2013

New Colorado law may encourage sex offenders to register as homeless

8-13-2013 Colorado:

Tobias Gonzales reported he was homeless and living beside the stately brick homes in the 1300 block of Franklin Street, just north of Cheesman Park. Now, he says he's homeless in another residential neighborhood miles away, at West 48th Avenue and Tejon Street.

George Welch lists an alley one block south of the governor's mansion as his home address. Michael Hagin calls the busy corner of Broadway and Colfax — the intersection in front of The Denver Post building — his home. Anthony Sanchez describes himself as a transient living at 8 Fox St., but the man who answered the door said he's never heard of him.

All are convicted sex offenders — four of 162 in Denver alone who now say they have no fixed address.

Now, under a new state law, police departments are not required to verify their locations. And while the law instructs law enforcement agencies statewide to report their numbers of homeless sex offenders every six months, state officials acknowledged last week that no such reports exist.

"It just seems like a loophole to me," said Larry Valencia, who managed the sex offender registration program for the Denver Police Department until last September. "If you don't know where they're at, why bother trying to register them?"

A state audit earlier this year criticized sex offender treatment programs in Colorado prisons, finding that many prisoners waited years for treatment, then received inadequate treatment when they got off a waiting list.

That poses a risk to Colorado communities, Valencia suggested, especially if offenders register as homeless once they leave prison.

With the new law, tracking sex offenders "seems like it went from good to worse," he said. "They start talking to each other: 'Hey, just go down to Denver and tell them you're homeless.' "

In Denver alone, 16 homeless sex offenders are missing and are wanted for failing to register. Half have been missing since 2012 or ...continued... by David Olinger

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