Better sex-offender list eyed
January 11, 2001
State attorney general wants registry of violent offenders expanded, centralized.
Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar wants
legislators to expand the state's violent
sex-offender list after learning that just one man is
named on a Web site intended to warn citizens.
He also wants offenders to register their
whereabouts twice a year instead of just once, and
he's asking for a central state registry instead of
the current hodgepodge of local ones.
The attorney general acknowledged Wednesday
that some people might try to force sex offenders
to move or even harm them if it becomes easier to
find out where they live. New local laws forced
sex-offender group homes out of some Denver
suburbs beginning in 1999 after registry
requirements made it easier to know their
But Salazar said the right of Colorado residents to
know where sex offenders are living is paramount.
"I think sex offenders pose particular problems for
the public safety," he said. "All the studies we
have indicate sex offenders have a high rate of
Sue Armstrong, executor of the local American
Civil Liberties Union, urged caution.
"I would be extremely cautious in moving forward
to develop a public Web site where people's
names are listed," she said.
Armstrong said citizens have a right to the
information they need to protect themselves, but
that instant knowledge of sex offenders' home
addresses could be dangerous.
"I think it creates an atmosphere of group fear, and it escalates, which can
result in vigilante mentality," Armstrong said.
Convicted sex offenders must register their addresses annually with their local
governments under nationwide "Megan's Laws," named for a 7-year-old New
Jersey girl who was raped and strangled to death in 1994 by a neighbor with
two sex-offense convictions. No one in the neighborhood had known of his
Residents of any community may see their local registries at local government
offices. But in Colorado, only sex offenders deemed violent and likely to
commit more sex offenses are posted on the statewide Web site.
Colorado has about 8,300 registered sex offenders, but the only one on the
state Web site is a 54-year-old La Plata County man with a history of
"The requirements of the law are quite onerous," Salazar said. "You have to be
really violent. A court also has to make a specific finding that you are a
sexually violent predator. A risk assessment is conducted.
"The Web site is now rather limited. It tells me there ought to be additional
In addition to the sex offenders already registered in Colorado, another 1,600
or so may be released soon from state prisons without parole or other
supervision, Salazar said.
A dispute is pending before the Colorado Supreme Court over the legislature's
intent when it enacted a series of confusing changes in sex-offender laws in
the 1990s. Salazar contends the legislature didn't mean to set those offenders
free without supervision.
Some critics have warned that strict registration laws might backfire. ACLU
lawyer Mark Silverstein said last year that he had heard of an unintended
consequence of Megan's Laws that some police chiefs were calling "Megan's
"Registered sex offenders, hounded out of community after community, may
be moving to other communities and failing to register," he said.
Source: Rocky Mountain News, by Karen Abbott