LARIMER COUNTY SHERIFF PUTS FOCUS ON TRANSIENTS AFTER WOMAN’S DEATH
Larimer County's top law enforcement official took to social media at 2 a.m. Friday to lambasteFort Collins leadership and service providers who enable and encourage criminality amongtransient people and travelers.
Sheriff Justin Smith's post came a day after Fort Collins police announced the arrest of JeffreyEtheridge, a recently arrived transient man and convicted felon accused of sexually assaulting andkilling 23-year-old Heather Helena Hoffmann.
Etheridge is a multi-state sex offender who is also transient.
I assure you, it's no coincidence that our community, with a record low unemployment rate, isoverrun by intentionally unemployed transients, preying on community members like Helena, Smithwrote. ...The time for talk is over — as a community, we must demand immediate action toprevent more tragedies like the rape and murder of Helena from occurring again in ourcommunities.
In his 876-word Facebook commentary calling on residents to band together and demand changes inpublic policy, Smith stopped short of providing specifics on what he thinks needs to change toquell community unease and diminish criminal behaviors within a segment of Northern Colorado'spopulation.
More transients are committing violent crimes, according to the statistics in Sheriff Smith'sFacebook post.
Nearly one-third of the inmates in Larimer County Jail are self-identified as either homeless,transient or living in a local shelter. In 2011, it was around one-eighth of the inmate population,according to Sheriff Smith.
He also says the jail has seen a 25-50 percent increase in intake since 2014 and guards areforced to move inmates out to eastern Colorado.
Smith said this information comes through researching booking reports for the past severalyears.
Felony crimes within the 8th Judicial District have increased 85-90 percent over the last threeyears, according to the District Attorney's Office.
It's unclear what's driving transients to Larimer County but Sheriff Smith believesorganizations that provide services for homeless people need a different approach.
Don't do more of what's not working, Smith said.
Homeless Gear is a non-profit that is considered the homeless hub for Larimer County.
Workers have seen an increase in the transient community, according to David Rout, the executivedirector of Homeless Gear.
This truly transient population of folks are coming in from different states and passingthrough Fort Collins, he says. The truth is, we are extremely concerned about that issue.
Experts consider homeless drastically different from transient. Officials say, transientsmove to a city with no intention of getting a job or staying.
Rout says the staff were quickly notified some transients were trying to take advantage ofservices, which is why policies were changed to limit services for transients, while homelesspeople could receive the full range of services.
We were starting to see folks who would come in and request supplies and they were literallyonly here for a couple of days, Rout said.
Catholic Charities and the Fort Collins Rescue Mission have also noticed an influx of newfaces, or transients.
Sheriff Smith is now calling for a change to current laws. Specifically, laws that allowed lastweek's murder suspect to register as a transient sex offender with no legal residence.
Message from Executive Director Laura A. Ahearn: Parents for Megan's Law and the Crime VictimsCenter provides prevention education, advocacy, counseling and other valuable support services tochild and adult victims of sexual assault and to all victims of violent crime. Please visit ourwebsite at www.parentsformeganslaw.org for news, information and resources in your community.