Sex offenders are closer than you think. The Florida Offender Alert System allows anyone to pull up a map sprinkled with dots that represent sex offenders, predators and multiple offenders in their area.
The difference between an offender and a predator, according to Florida Statutes, is that a predator designation requires that a person be convicted of a first-degree felony sex crime, or two second-degree felony sex crimes. In addition, the court must issue a written order finding for predator status. Predators should be feared more than offenders because they have been convicted of a capital, life or first- degree felony and also threaten greater danger than offenders.
Though there are less scattered directly around Eckerd’s campus, the city of St. Pete is saturated with dots. There are 333 registered sex offenders whose permanent address is located within a five-mile radius of campus. Most are one time sex offenders, but there are about 25 predators and six multiple offenders listed on the map.
The Palace Mobile Home Park, also known as a “sex offender’s paradise,” located on 54th Ave. N, just off of I-275 is a place many offenders call home. A report by Rich Phillips of CNN found that 95 of the 200 residents of Palace were convicted sex offenders. “The adults-only, nondescript, low-income trailer park in St. Petersburg, Fla., has gained a reputation among sex offenders on probation as a good place to live and stay out of trouble,” Phillips wrote in his article.
Freshman Kelsey Taber was surprised by the amount of offenders in the area. “I had no idea there were so many,” Taber said. “I will definitely be more cautious when I’m downtown after learning that.”
Florida law requires all sexual offenders and sexual predators to register their address with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement or the local sheriff’s office. If a victim of the offense was less than 16 years-old, the offender cannot reside within 1,000 feet of any school, day care center, park or playground according to Florida Statute 794.065. A map of these offenders can be easily accessed by typing in your city or zip code.
The Jacob Wetterling Act, the law requiring states to register sex offenders registered of sex crimes against children, states that it is necessary because sex offenders pose a high risk of re-offending after release from custody. Protecting the public from sex offenders is a primary governmental interest as well, and the privacy interests of persons convicted of sex offenses are less important than the government’s interest in public safety.
Steer clear of danger and search the Florida Department of Law Enforcement website at offender.fdle.state.fl.us for registered predators or offenders near you.