ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Sex offenders say they are facing eviction in Englewood due to the city’s restrictive residency restrictions. The city passed the restrictions 10 years ago but only recently moved to enforce them again.
Three men who are all registered sex offenders filed a lawsuit in federal court Thursday claiming they recently were told they can no longer register at their addresses in Englewood , even though they have all registered at those addresses previously without issue.
“All three plaintiffs were informed by the Englewood Police Department that they will not be allowed to register in the City of Englewood again, and that they will be sent a certified letter instructing them that they have 30 days to clear out of the City of Englewood or be arrested,” the lawsuit claims.
The Englewood city council passed the residency restrictions in 2006. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the ordinance says sex offenders cannot live within 2000 feet of any school, park, or playground or within 1000 feet of any licensed day care center, recreation center or swimming pool, or any property located next to a bus stop, walk-to-school route, or recreational trail.
The lawsuit claims those restrictions leave only 55 options out of 11,314 parcels in the entire city where sex offenders can live legally, and even in those areas the offenders may be uprooted if someone chooses to open a day care center, recreation center or swimming pool nearby.
“This is an ordinance that is enacted supposedly to protect children from the risk of being assaulted by a sex offender. But these ordinances do not make children any safer, they don't prevent sex offenses from occurring, and instead they risk driving sex offenders underground,” ACLU legal director Mark Silverstein told Denver7 Investigates.
The ACLU successfully challenged the ordinance in court in 2013. However, the man who brought that challenge also successfully petitioned the state to remove him from the sex offender registry, and because the ordinance no longer applied to the plaintiff who brought the case, a court dismissed it during the appeals process.
The Colorado Supreme Court ultimately ruled that the state’s constitution did not preempt Englewood’s ordinance. However, the decision did not address other claims brought forth by the ACLU. For instance, the court system never decided if the ordinance is constitutional under the U.S. Constitution.
Two of the plaintiffs in the new lawsuit claim they moved into their Englewood homes years before the city passed the residency restrictions in 2006, and the ordinance was supposed to “grandfather” in offenders who already legally lived in the city.
One of those men is Brian Brockhausen, who said he was convicted in 2001 of sexually assaulting three teenage boys.
“Unfortunately in my past, I've made horrible decisions, decisions that hurt people. I can't go back and change that. What I've learned after almost 15 years of offense-specific treatment is that today maintaining a stable life, a healthy life is important,” Brockhausen told Denver7 Investigates.
Brockhausen said city officials told him he doesn’t qualify to be grandfathered in because he was in prison, rather than living in his Englewood home, when the council passed the ordinance.
“The ordinance originally … was for the creepy guy hiding in the bushes,” Brockhausen said. “They weren't thinking about homeowners, they weren't thinking about productive members of society, people who are beloved by their neighbors and contribute to the community and are a valuable asset.”
The city apparently held off on enforcing the residency restrictions until after the legal challenge in the ACLU case was resolved in January.
“I would have hoped that Englewood would have realized, 'We went several years without this ordinance being enforced. We don't need it anymore,’” Silverstein said.
Brockhausen says he recently learned he may have to move and began reaching out to the city council. His neighbors have also given public comment at council meetings asking the city to rethink the move.
“Currently I've got stable residence, stable employment, wonderful support around me, neighbors on both sides who support me and love me dearly. Why change that? Why change that risk level when according to all assessments those are things that make [me] low risk,” Brockhausen said.
At its most recent meeting, Englewood’s city council cited a memo from police and the city attorney saying about half of the city’s registered sex offenders are affected by enforcement of the ordinance. The council voted against putting a 45-day moratorium on the police department’s plans to send 30-day notices to affected sex offenders to either move or face arrest.
It’s unclear when the city plans to move forward and tell sex offenders to move. Englewood police referred Denver7’s questions to the city attorney. The acting city attorney did not return a call for comment Thursday. The city manager said he could not comment on ongoing litigation.