More than one would think

Statistics show Cortez above state average in registered sex offenders

Late last year, local resident Melvin Darnell Fisher was sentenced to 12 years in prison for sexual exploitation of children along with eight years on three charges of attempting to commit sexual acts against a child.

Law enforcement statistics show there are several people living in Cortez who may have committed similar crimes.

There are more than 50 residents living in Cortez and Montezuma County who once committed a sex crime and are now required by law to register as a sex offender.

Cortez is among the top half of the state by percentage of sex offenders living in the community.

According to the city-data.com website, there were 15 registered sex offenders living in Cortez as of Feb. 1, which represents one for every 575 residents.

By comparison, Montezuma County had lower numbers than the state average with 1,402 residents for every sex offender.

The state average for Colorado is 753 residents for each registered sex offender.

By contrast, Durango's rate is 1,039 residents for every registered sex offender, while Dolores has one for every 458 residents and Dove Creek has one offender for every 728 people.

According to the Montezuma County Sheriff's Office website, there are 49 registered sex offenders living in the county, four of whom are also listed as offenders living within the city limits.

Montezuma County Sheriff Dennis Spruell had little to say about the figures, saying he had no idea where the numbers stood.

"It's unfortunate. It's disappointing," Spruell said.

The most serious offenders are those who have been labeled sexual predators. These offenders are the ones most likely to reoffend.

There are currently two registered offenders/predators living in Cortez and the one listed on the sheriff's office website is also on the city's list of registered sexual predators.

A sexual offender is a person who has committed a sexual offense. The term sexual predator is often used to refer to a person who habitually seeks out sexual situations that are deemed exploitable.

While the majority of sex offenders are required to register as a sex offender, a sexual predator is required to register every three months for life.

Statistics and Numbers

In 2012 there were 10,096 registered sex offenders in the state of Colorado, and statistics show that a sexual assault attempt will be made on 25 percent of women sometime in their lives.

The same statistics reveal that one in 17 men will be subject to a sexual assault attempt in their lifetimes.

A study by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment found that one in 150 women and one in 830 men in Colorado had experienced a completed or attempted sexual assault in the past 12 months, and approximately only 16 percent of these assaults were reported to police.

Most sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows. A stranger does not pose the highest risk, as 85 to 90 percent of sex offenders are known to their victims and include relatives, friends, and authority figures.

According to the Montezuma County Sheriff's Office website, most convicted sex offenders are supervised and managed by community supervision teams consisting of criminal justice officers, including probation, parole, community corrections staff, polygraph examiners, and treatment providers.

Sex offenders are also placed into one of three classifications.

A risk Level 1 offender presents the lowest possible risk to the community and the likelihood to reoffend is considered minimal.

A risk Level 2 offender presents a moderate risk to the community with a higher likelihood of reoffending than Level 1 offenders. These are considered an increased risk to reoffend because of the nature of their previous crimes and lifestyles.

A risk Level 3 offender poses a potential high risk to the community and are a threat to reoffend if provided the opportunity. Most Level 3 offenders have prior sex crime convictions as well as other criminal convictions. Their lifestyles and choices place them in this classification. Some have predatory characteristics and may seek out victims.

Colorado Bureau of Investigation Public Information Officer Susan Medina said the bureau does not use levels to classify sex offenders. The levels, she said, are sexually violent predators, multiple offense offenders, those who fail to register and those with a prior felony conviction for a sex offense.

Registering

Colorado law requires the registration of any person convicted of a sex crime who is a temporary or permanent resident under certain provisions within one day when released from prison or five days if not incarcerated.

Individuals convicted on or after July 1, 1991, of an unlawful sexual offense or enticement of a child in the state of Colorado, or an equivalent offense in another state or jurisdiction must register as a sex offender.

Anyone released on or after July 1, 1991, from prison in Colorado or any other state after serving a sentence for an unlawful sexual offense or enticement of a child, or an equivalent offense in another location or was convicted after July 1, 1994, in Colorado for unlawful sexual behavior or another offense also are required to register.

Other people being required to register as a sex offender are those convicted of sex offenses in any other state or jurisdiction for which the person would have been required to register in the state or jurisdiction of conviction, or for which the individual would be required to register if convicted in Colorado.

Individuals convicted of more serious sex crimes are also placed on Sex Offender Intensive Supervised Probation.

Medina said while there are notifications sent out to neighborhoods when a sex offender moves in, there is no provision in the state that forbids an offender from living near a public school.

The terms or sentences vary on the type of crime. Probation is possible in some instances, as there are more than 125 classifications pertaining to sex crime laws.

michaelm@cortezjournal.com