Thursday, June 23, 2005

Hillsborough bans sex offenders from public shelters

Source: Tampa Bay 10 News

TAMPA, Florida - When hurricanes threaten the Bay area many people head to shelters for protection. While these are open to the public, Hillsborough commissioners have banned one group, sex offenders and predators.

There are 50 hurricane shelters in Hillsborough County, all are schools. Evacuees eat in cafeterias, sleep in gymnasiums or in more confined areas like classrooms.

By law, most sex offenders and predators are not allowed within 1,000 feet of a school, and Hillsborough's sheriff says that includes during hurricanes.

Sheriff David Gee, Hillsborough County:

"It defies logic to me. We spend all the money on tracking these people all that effort posting their picture to let them go to shelters sleep in the floor or cot next to kids, doesn't make sense."

The shelters are run by the Red Cross. A spokesperson says the agency has been caught off guard by the sheriff's proposal and county commissioners' decision. Hillsborough commissioners have asked county staff to figure out how to screen for sexual offenders and predators at public shelters.

Hillsborough is not alone. Other counties across the state are taking similar action. Manatee County is considering a similar ban. Seminole County's sheriff proposed making a separate hurricane shelter for sex offenders.

In Jacksonville, sex offenders and predators are required to disclose their conviction when arriving at a public shelter.

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