Homeless sex offender rates on the rise in Southern Colorado

Posted at 11:59 PM, May 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-17 01:59:09-04

Homeless sex offender numbers are the highest they’ve been in the last three years, in both Pueblo and E Pa so Counties–most of them residing within city limits.

There are currently 35 homeless sex offenders living in Pueblo and 127 in Colorado Springs.

"Every month, we’re getting new sex offenders.  So not all of them are stable enough to have a house," said Detective Jeff Shay, with the Pueblo Police Department.

Many landlords and potential employers will automatically dismiss applicants who are also convicted sex offenders.

"There’s maybe 10 or 12 apartment complexes in the entire city that will rent to sex offenders.  If you don’t have a job, then you can’t pay rent for a place.  It’s a vicious cycle–it really is," explained Detective Rob Meredith, with the Colorado Springs Police Department.

Police face a different issue, though.

"There are, I believe, some legitimate homeless sex offenders–but there are definitely several that aren’t, that claim to be and skirt the system."

Detective Shay says it’s a way for them to stay "off the grid."
"They don’t like having a red dot put on their house over the internet," he told News5.

But they skirt more than just the system, when they register as homeless.

"They’re supposed to provide as much detail as possible about where they’re staying.  With the camping ordinance, they’re moving all the time, so it’s not really feasible to conduct an actual home visit with these guys," said Detective Meredith.

State law requires police to do at least one home visit a year to registered sex offenders–but only those with an actual home address.

The rules are different for homeless individuals.

"They’re hardly ever there and it’s a lot of effort to check that, so we generally don’t.  The Colorado law doesn’t require us to," said Shay.

He says some sex offenders caught on to that in the past, opting for a homeless "address."

In 2012, the state responded–passing new legislation, which required homeless sex offenders to re-register every three months instead of once a year.

"Initially, I saw a decrease from our homeless sex offender population," said Shay.

"We went down from probably a little over 20, down to the low teens.  But then around 2015/2016, it started picking back up.  And now, here we are in 2018, and it’s up to 35.

He says the percentage of sex offenders who aren’t in compliance is low–around 3%.

"What I find is I write warrants for the same people over and over.  I think for some, it’s the cost of doing business.  They roll the dice and 30 days in jail isn’t so bad for some of them apparently.  But I think it has deterred quite a few that were playing the game of ‘I’m not going to have my house show up on the internet.’"

But the issue remains: homeless sex offender numbers are on the rise.  

Both Pueblo and Colorado Springs Police Departments say they’re still searching for a way to slow down the trend.

"I think eventually, we’ll spitball it with all of the other detectives across the state and go to the Sex Offender Management Board and ask for their help in drafting some new language into the laws that makes it even more difficult," said Shay.

For a list of sex offenders in Colorado Springs, click here.

For a list of sex offenders in Pueblo, click here.