Number of sex offenders living in Florida is growing
The New State report came out recently and the number of sexual offenders and predators living in Florida has risen by more than 50 percent in the last 13 years.
Legislative auditors reported late last week that nearly 29,000 registered sex offenders and predators now reside in the state. That’s an increase of 53 percent since 2005. Orange County, home to Orlando, had the highest total number of sex offenders and predators in the state with 2,299.
Sex offenders and predators are people who have been convicted of certain sexual offenses. Court designates certain offenders as sex “predators” if they are deemed an “extreme threat” to public safety because they have targeted children or engaged in physical violence against their victims.
Sex offenders and predators are required to register with the state. A database operated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement allows people to see if a sex offender or sex predator lives near their home.
Beginning in the early nineties, both federal and Florida law have facilitated oversight of sexual offenders and predators
living in Florida communities. Several entities have a role in monitoring sex offenders in Florida, including the Florida
Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), Florida Department of Corrections (FDC), Department of Highway Safety and
Motor Vehicles (DHSMV), and local law enforcement. The agencies’ various activities include monitoring, registering,
verifying, and providing information about sex offenders.
FDLE’s sex offender registry lists more than 73,000 offenders and predators , of which, just over 28,000 reside in Florida communities. Since 2005, when the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) was first statutorily required to review the registry, the number of registered sexual predators and sex offenders in Florida communities has grown by 53%. Sheriffs’ offices monitor all registered sex offenders and are meeting statutory requirements, adopting various strategies to fulfill them. Additionally, FDC supervises offenders sentenced to community supervision and those who have been conditionally released from prison. Also, some sex offenders are conditionally released into the community from the Sexually Violent Predator Program’s Florida Civil Commitment Center.
Some sex offenders are required to participate in specialized treatment as a term of their community supervision. OPPAGA’s review found a wide range of treatment costs as well as cost variability by both provider and geographic area. To help ensure reasonable rates and set standards for treatment quality, FDC entered into contractual agreements with treatment providers throughout its four regions to provide sex offender treatment services. However, many sex offender treatment providers do not
operate under the parameters of a contract and are not monitored for quality assurance.
As directed by Chapter 2005-28, Laws of Florida, OPPAGA studied the effectiveness of Florida’s sexual offender registration process and public notification provisions.
Sex offenders in Florida may face barriers to housing including residence restrictions, unwelcoming property managers, lack of affordable housing, and issues with employment and income. Transient offenders continue to present monitoring challenges. While the overall percentage of registered sex offenders living in Florida communities with a transient address is small (6%), some counties have higher than average rates. In addition, barriers to housing have contributed to sex offender enclave
communities. Enclaves include apartment complexes, rooming houses, trailer parks, and motels that were established expressly for, or are willing to rent to, sex offenders. There are local variations in emergency shelter access for sex offenders, with most communities designating a specific shelter or area of a shelter for sex offenders. In addition, some communities have ordinances that require sex offenders to self-disclose their registration status at shelters.
In support of this project, OPPAGA conducted fieldwork in Hendry, Lee, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach counties, including
meeting with FDC, Community Corrections probation officers, and staff;
meeting with sheriff’s office staff and accompanying officers on address verifications to
multiple sex offender residences;
visiting the Pelican Lake Community, a sex offender enclave near Pahokee in Palm Beach
County that is run by Matthew 25 Ministries and houses 125 sex offenders;
facilitating a focus group attended by 31 individuals required to register as offenders and
attending a meeting of the Palm Beach County Re-Entry Taskforce’s Sex Offender