The Denver Police Department has launched a series of videos intended to reveal myths about sex offenders in the Mile High City. Detective David Bourgeois, who stars in the clips, provided Westword with additional details about myths exposed in the first installment, on view below, and previews future episodes, revealing, for example, that not every registered sex offender can be found online.
"People think, 'I did an Internet search, and there are no sex offenders living in my neighborhood,'" Bourgeois says. "But that might not be the case."
The DPD is producing the videos in order to educate the public about sex offenders — and as you'll see, the tone of the initial salvo is dark. But that's appropriate, in Bourgeois's view. "This is very serious," he says.
Here are seven myths about sex offenders in Denver, as described by Bourgeois.
Myth 1: Felony sex offenders always get long prison sentences
"One myth is that if you're convicted of a felony, you're going to be in jail for a long time," Bourgeois notes. "But that just isn't the case, unfortunately, for most convicted sex offenders."
In some cases, it's hard to say whether "that's due to overcrowding in prisons or not enough jail space," he continues. "But when it comes to a child who's a victim, a lot of times the child doesn't have to testify. The parents don't want to put their kids through that, so there might be a plea bargain that sentences the sex offender to community corrections. That could be ten years on probation or a lifetime of probation. But they're back in the community the whole time, basically."
Myth 2: Misdemeanor sex offenders must receive jail time, too
"The majority of these misdemeanors are going to be either unlawful sexual contact — fondling or groping of the genitalia, breasts or buttocks — or an attempt of that offense, or indecent exposure," Bourgeois points out. "And if there's jail time, it's usually shorter than people think. Oftentimes if a person's been in custody from the time of his arrest up to the date of his sentence, that's usually what the jail time ends up being. They may get sentenced to one year in jail, but if they've already served six months, the court will waive the remaining jail sentence if the person successfully completes probation."
Myth 3: Sex offenders can never be around children
If a sex offender's probationary or parole agreement doesn't restrict their right to spend time in the presence of children (and that's frequently the case, especially if the victim wasn't underage), they can do so, Bourgeois stresses. And restrictions don't always last a lifetime.
"If they're no longer on probation or parole, even if it was a fifteen-year sentence, we don't have any way to keep them away from children, or from being around parks," he adds. "A lot of people think we have that ability, but we don't. That's only if they're under supervision. And sometimes, even when they are under supervision, they can be around their own kids, or around other people's kids as well, if the other parents allow it."
Bourgeois "can definitely understand the concern about that. But it's not problematic from my point of view. Many of them learn their lesson and hopefully don't commit another crime."
Myth 4: The community is notified when a sex offender moves to the neighborhood.
"That's only if they've been designated as a sexually violent predator," Bourgeois says. "Then it's done by the courts or the parole board" — and the Denver Police Department follows up by posting videos about SVPs on social media and YouTube. "If they're not designated as sexually violent predators, we don't do community notifications. People think they'll get notified if anybody in their neighborhood had convictions involving a child, but that's not the case, either. Only if they're an SVP."
Myth 5: Juvenile sex offenders are always subject to online profiles
"Sometimes there seems to be a little confusion between the list of sex offenders on our website and the one on the Colorado Bureau of Investigation website," Bourgeois says. "We don't always do things the same way. When a kid gets adjudicated for a felony sex crime, he has to register, but he's not put on the Internet on our website or on CBI's."
Myth 6: All Denver sex offenders are listed on the Colorado Bureau of Investigation registry
"Let's say a juvenile gets convicted of a sex crime — misdemeanor or felony, it doesn't matter," Bourgeois allows. "If he then fails to register that conviction, he'll be web-eligible on our website even if he's still a juvenile. But CBI elects not to do so. Sometimes I'll get calls from a citizen saying, 'Why is my kid on your website but not on the CBI website?' Or someone will ask, 'Why isn't this kid on the CBI's website?' And that's why."
Myth 7: All Denver sex offenders are listed online
"Not everyone is on the web," Bourgeois says, and not all sex offenders are searchable. Indeed, sex offenders convicted of misdemeanors in the city don't have online DPD profiles.
This information is available, however. "A citizen can show up in person and purchase the sex-offender list, and that will include everyone registered in the city," he maintains.
At present, there are approximately 2,400 sex offenders registered in the City of Denver, Bourgeois reveals, "and about 60 percent of our convictions are Internet-eligible."
And the other 40 percent? They could be living just down the street — and in a best-case scenario, that's just fine by Bourgeois. "We offer resources for citizens, as well as for sex offenders. We show them how to stay compliant and within the law — and hopefully they'll move past that and get back into society. And eventually off the registry."
Here's the first episode of the Denver Police Department's "Sex Offender Myths."