Fifty law enforcement officers representing five different agencies, including the U.S. Marshals Service, hit the streets of Highlands Ranch this past week to check up on 62 of Douglas County’s 282 registered sex offenders.
Directed by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, officers made contact with 48 of the 62 offenders they attempted to contact on Sept. 25, finding just one out of compliance. Earlier in September, officers swept through the southern part of the county, reaching 41 of 61 offenders in the Castle Rock area in one evening.
“The most important thing about this is that law enforcement actually puts eyes on these people,” said DCSO Lt. Kevin Duffy. “This is a very transient population.”
During the checks, which are required by state statute, officers take note of any significant changes including change in appearance, change of address, whether the offender is driving a new vehicle, or has changed an email address or phone number.
“If they don’t live there anymore, we try to get the new address information and take a statement from the current resident,” said DSCO Capt. Jason Kennedy. “That person becomes our first witness and our criminal investigation begins immediately.”
Offenders have just five days to report a change in address or they could be charged with a felony. When the agencies made their sweep Sept. 11 in Castle Rock, they discovered one offender had moved to California and not reported it to Douglas County authorities or registered with the authorities in California. It’s for that exact type of situation that the U.S. Marshals Service works with local agencies to help keep track of offenders and intervene across jurisdictions when necessary.
Any changes with offenders are tracked and immediately updated in the county’s online sex offender tracking system, SOTAR, which — after being launched in Douglas County in 2006 — now shares its information with 36 police departments and 21 sheriffs’ offices along the Front Range and Western Slope.
“The registered sex offender database is in my opinion almost critical,” Duffy said. “We have called upon it in the last nine months on probably eight or nine cases where the first thing out of everybody’s mouth is: ‘Where are the registered sex offenders in the area?’ ... In a case in Parker, in literally a half-hour, we had detectives on the doorsteps of 18 sex offenders while looking to find a kid we thought was abducted.”
While any resident can do a basic search of offenders living in their area by visiting www.dcsheriff.net and clicking on the unified sex offender registry in the lower right column, officers can use the SOTAR database to delve even deeper, searching by everything from vehicle type to hair color to visible tattoos, height and weight.
The site, which accounts for 42 percent of all offenders in the state, only shows those who are web eligible. Residents can obtain information on all others — those with just one misdemeanor on their record — by visiting their local law enforcement office.