The Sun-Sentinel recently reported that a group of twenty-four registered sex offenders were evicted from the Budget Inn in Fort Lauderdale when the management learned of their sex offender statuses. This most recent occurrence follows a number of evictions of sex offenders across South Florida and it’s leading to higher rates of homelessness among offenders.
State law prohibits people convicted of certain sex offenses from living within 1,000 feet of any school, child care facility, park, or playground. Many cities have enacted even stricter city ordinances, extending that zone to 1,500 feet and in some areas, even up to 2,500 feet. These restrictions often mean that convicted offenders are prohibited from living in all or most of certain South Florida cities. For example, according to the Sun-Sentinel, in Fort Lauderdale, offenders can only live within ten percent of the city limits without violating the state statute and the city ordinance.
Violating the state statute means committing either a third degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, or a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail, depending on the severity of the underlying sexual offense.
As a result, the incidence of homelessness among sexual offenders is on the rise in South Florida. One only had to look under the Julia Tuttle Causeway to see hundreds of offenders living in a colony there, essentially because they had nowhere else to go where they could comply with the law. However, Miami-Dade County officials moved the colony from under the bridge in 2010. Some of those same people moved into the Homestead Studio Suites hotel, until they too were evicted in April 2010.
Even police officers who are responsible for tracking sexual offenders are not happy about the statistics. Since offenders are required to report their addresses for the sexual offender registry, authorities want to know where they are. Once offenders are kicked out of their residences, they sometimes fall off the grid, which makes them harder for the authorities keep track of. Authorities say that once an offender becomes homeless, the likelihood of reoffending and/or violating probation increases exponentially.
While the goal is community safety, the result is higher incidences of sexually based crimes. It may be time to reevaluate the residency restrictions and allow offenders to reintegrate into society, keep a stable housing environment, and stay on law enforcement’s radar. It certainly appears that would better serve the goal of community safety than the current system.