Sex offenders go under the magnifying glass |

Sex offenders go under the magnifying glass

Tara Flanagan, columnist

Our esteemed newspaper is currently polling locals on whether they think sex offenders who reside in Summit County should have to register “in all towns.” As of Tuesday morning, a strong 88 percent said yes. Ordinarily, I side with people being able to do what they want without government interference, as long as they aren’t bothering anyone else.This generally applies to folks who’ve gotten out of jail and have, by most considerations, paid their dues. If someone has been dumb enough to steal a car, I’m guessing that a little jail time, complete with stellar food and company, is adequate. I don’t feel a need to have this person on some kind of list that tells me my Subaru is in danger.

But when it comes to sex offenders who do rotten things to kids, all bets are off. In this case, community safety outweighs any privacy the offender might fantasize about. I want government all over these guys like a cheap suit. I want these people to register with every known governmental or quasi-governmental entity, whether it’s the police department, restaurant inspection team or the agricultural extension service. I want George W. Bush to personally wire tap each of these terrorists for the entirety of the space-time continuum, and then some.If I sound excessive, consider this. Several years ago when I was a reporter elsewhere in the High Country, I received a call from a frenzied parent. One of Colorado’s more notable sex offenders was getting released, she said, and word was out that folks weren’t exactly inviting him over to dinner. This was the guy who in 1983 kidnapped and assaulted a 3-year-old girl, then deposited her in a campground outhouse pit in the Foothills. Some bird watchers from Pittsburgh found her. When they asked what had happened, she replied, “I live here.”It turned out, according to the parent, that the perpetrator’s family owned property in our High Country near an elementary school. It stood to reason that if nobody else wanted him around, he might just hang out at the family digs. Great, I thought.

So I called a supervisor down at the prison in Cañon City and had one of those conversations that makes you feel like your blood is draining out of your feet. While incarcerated, our man did not exactly push his way to the front of the line to receive treatment, she said. Nor did she give me any encouragement about sex offenders who prey on kids. She described them as incurable and only occasionally manageable. But our man, who was sentenced to 10 years through a plea bargain, had served six and was eligible for parole. Under the law, there was nothing to keep him behind bars.So I called his father. You could offer me several tens of thousands of dollars and I would not repeat that 45 seconds of my life. Neither caller nor callee was exactly leaping with cheeriness. He did, though, assure me that his son would not be living in our midst. His voice had a worn sincerity; I wasn’t the first to ask about his son’s potential whereabouts.Last I was able to ascertain, our man had registered as a sex offender in California. There’s no guarantee that registering with any agency is going to stop an offender from preying on kids. But neighbors need to know who’s next door; 80 precent to 95 percent of offenders are known to their victims.If you want more stats, fewer than 30 percent of sex crimes are reported, according to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. More than 80 percent of convicted adult rapists report that they have molested kids.

More than 8,000 offenders are registered throughout the state. Summit County has six of them, according to the most recent stats I could find.No doubt, parolled sex offenders must feel like they’re living under a magnifying glass. But if people know the truth and can make decisions about their kids’ safety, that might be the difference between someone living under a magnifying glass or living out his life in a small cell. Tara Flanagan writes a Wednesday column. She can be contacted at

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