Editorial: Strangers among us

They have hurt men, they have hurt women and they have hurt children.

The crimes they have been convicted for are heinous, and there is no particular characteristics or traits that make them obvious to the public at large.

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They are convicted sex offenders, and they live among us.

Look no further than Tuesday's sobering community meeting, where the Craig Police Department informed the public about a paroled, sexually violent predator living inside Craig limits; however, he may soon be leaving town to a location better suited to accommodate his medical needs.

Even if he leaves, that news must be tempered by the following information: There are at least 34 more people living within either Craig or Moffat County limits who are registered as sex offenders.

On Tuesday, police announced that Robert Allen Barnstable, a disabled, 53-year-old multiple sex offender is living at 445 Ranney St. Because Barnstable was declared a sexually violent predator, a classification that has a high potential to re-offend, police are required by state law to notify the community.

Barnstable was convicted of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in 1978 and attempted sexual assault on a child in 2005. The latter crime was against a 12-year-old girl, police said.

The editorial board discussed the Barnstable situation Monday and the presence of other sexual offenders in our community. The board came to two conclusions, or rather requests, of community members stemming from its discussion.

Number one, the board implores parents to learn more about the people around their children and the people who live in their neighborhoods. Both the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the Craig Police Department have offender information on their respective Web sites. Visit these sites and learn who these individuals are.

Next, keep tabs on your child and review stranger danger rules with them early and often. Their safety, and your peace of mind, may depend on it.

And number two, leave Barnstable and other convicted offenders listed on the public Web sites alone.

This unique situation involving the sex offender announcement -- a first for the Police Department -- is a dicey situation that poses the possibility of vigilantism.

Police Department Chief Walt Vanatta said Tuesday that any acts of vigilantism would be dealt with swiftly and prosecuted accordingly.

In other words, don't be stupid and ruin your life, and perhaps your family's, because of a misguided desire to hand out your own sense of justice.

Sexual offenders living in our community are a fact of life.

They have paid their debt to society and have the same rights as anyone else does to live out their days. Police have no legal authority to tell an offender where he may live.

Thus, sex offenders are here now, and will continue to be in the future.

The best recourse is simple, and probably apt for any situation: be proactive, be smart, educate yourself and ensure your loved ones do the same.

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