Fear and Loathing on the Sex Offender Trail

Neighborhood Red Alert, the company responsible for those little fear-mongering flyers appearing all over Denver, says there are 34 sex offenders in my area, as defined by my zip code. That’s pretty scary stuff, since we’re talking about an area that’s only a few square miles. Curiously, the official Colorado Sex Offender Registry lists only nine offenders in the same area, and the federal registry shows the same nine names and addresses. Gordon – the man behind the company, who refuses to give out his last name or any other identifying information – offered a simple explanation for the discrepancy. “A lot of times they drop some of that stuff off of CBI, we don’t drop it off, we leave it on there,” he says.

So in addition to keeping track of offenders that actually live in a given area, his site is tracking people who might live in an area, or who used to. Or something. Because even that explanation falls flat when he explains that his site has only existed for about three months. Or in light of the fact that the first time I checked, about a month ago, it showed 28 offenders (compared to eight, at the time, shown by the state registry). Or the equally large discrepancies in other neighborhoods, such as these (Gordon’s numbers first, official registry numbers after slash):

· 80004 – 70/20 · 80217 – 1/0 · 80203 – 73/41 · 80205 – 108/71 · 80005 – 34/9

Where are these inflated numbers coming from? “I have a guy that updates it for me, I don’t know where he gets it from,” Gordon says. “If there are any other sources I don’t know what they are. [CBI] is the only one I know of.” Unsurprisingly, Gordon refuses to divulge any information about this guy, or how to contact him, but he retains absolute faith in his figures, even when confronted with the large discrepancies. “Their information differs from ours. Who do you want to believe?” he asks. “I know that those numbers came from good, legitimate facts and figures.”

I asked Gordon for a temporary login to check the records in his database. He refused, although he did welcome me to submit my credit card and sign up for his service. He also refused to login to his own site to check the records and see if there might be a problem with his database or data entry. And when I asked him if his inflated numbers might serve to scare people into signing up, he readily acknowledged the possibility. “Sure we’re scaring people,” he says. “If we weren’t scaring people how much attention would we get?” – Cory Casciato

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