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Rise in notices causes concern

ENGLEWOOD, Fla. – A while ago we noticed a spate of press releases from the Sara­sota County Sheriff’s Office noti­fy­ing the pub­lic of sex offend­ers tak­ing up res­i­dence in the county. This seemed odd – had Sara­sota County become some sort of mecca for these people?

Accord­ing to SCSO spokes­woman Wendy Rose, it’s all about information.

Toward the end of last year we launched a very pub­lic noti­fi­ca­tion process to edu­cate cit­i­zens and make them aware,” she said. “They can get FDLE alerts, but it doesn’t give them con­text about the offender/predator.  So our goal was to help them decide ‘threat level.’ Was it a 2001 con­vic­tion and they never did any­thing else bad again, or is this per­son some­one they should hon­estly be con­cerned about?”

Rose said this is impor­tant because many peo­ple tend to view all reg­is­tered sex offend­ers as incor­ri­gi­ble per­verts who should be cast out of soci­ety – or worse.

Accord­ing to a story pub­lished Oct. 17 by Al Jazeera Amer­ica, “Few groups are as widely despised as sex offend­ers. Activ­i­ties pros­e­cuted as sex offenses vary by state, but can include pub­lic uri­na­tion, con­sen­sual sex between teenagers, streak­ing, pros­ti­tu­tion, down­load­ing child pornog­ra­phy and rape.”

Therein lies the prob­lem. Peo­ple have a knee-jerk reac­tion to any­one legally clas­si­fied as a sex offender, yet their crime could have been some­thing con­sid­ered by many to be benign. Men, raise your hand it you’ve never relieved your­self in a pub­lic place (road­sides and the woods count). Every­one, think back to your teen years…

Accord­ing to Sheriff.org:

Accord­ing to Florida statutes, a sex­ual offender is a per­son con­victed of (or who has pled no con­test or guilty to) a sex offense involv­ing a minor and who is released on or after Octo­ber 1, 1997 from the sanc­tion (e.g., fine, incar­cer­a­tion, pro­ba­tion, etc.) imposed as a result of the offense. Offenses include, but aren’t lim­ited to, child pornog­ra­phy, sex­ual per­for­mance by a child under 18 and procur­ing a per­son under 18 for pur­poses of pros­ti­tu­tion. Con­sult the Florida statutes for a com­plete list­ing of offenses.

A preda­tor des­ig­na­tion requires that a per­son be con­victed of a first-degree felony sex crime, or two second-degree felony sex crimes (with offenses, con­vic­tions or release from court sanc­tions occur­ring within 10 years) and which occurred after Octo­ber 1, 1993. In addi­tion, the court must issue a writ­ten order find­ing for preda­tor status.

All that said, here’s some numbers:

• Between Aug. 1 and Oct. 18, SCSO sent out 25 notices of sex offend­ers reg­is­ter­ing in Sara­sota County neighborhoods

• Of those 25 peo­ple, 21 were clas­si­fied as “offend­ers,” and four as higher-level threats, or “predators.”

• A ran­dom search of the data­base shows that, within a mile of 300 W. Dear­born St., there are 11 reg­is­tered s offend­ers, and four of them have reg­is­tered in 2014.

• Florida has 63,990 reg­is­tered offend­ers, the third most in the U.S. behind Cal­i­for­nia (82,147) and Texas (81,235). Those fig­ures are in line with total pop­u­la­tion: Cal­i­for­nia and Texas are the most pop­u­lous states in the nation, with Florida and New York close to tied for third. New York as just over half the offend­ers Florida has.

• Florida has 3,950.8 offend­ers per mil­lion pop­u­la­tion, fifth in the coun­try behind Alaska, Delaware, South Dakota and Wisconsin.





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