Thursday, June 23, 2005

Separate Shelters for Sex Offenders and Predators

Source: WCJB-TV

If a hurricane threatens some say sex offenders and sexual predators should be banned from public shelters. The Seminole County Sheriff is proposing to put sex offenders and predators in separate shelters where officers can better monitor them. And, now other counties are considering following suit.

Emergency managers across the state told people to get off the streets and seek shelter each time a storm struck Florida last year. Thousands of people did and crowded public shelters for safety.

This season sex offenders and predators could be kept away from the crowds.

"Everybody is nervous enough as it is during a hurricane disaster time that we don't need to worry about keeping our children safe from sexual predators," says mother Daylene Ripley.

Department of Corrections spokesperson Robby Cunningham says sex offenders and predators, under DOC's supervision, are already not allowed in public shelters. In fact, Cunningham says they have to have an emergency evacuation plan in place with their probation officer.

But, an FDLE official says for those offenders not on probation there is no statewide law that covers where they can and cannot go in an emergency.

"Being a sexual predator or sex offender is not a punishment, it's a designation that's been placed against them. So, we have to be very careful not to violate their rights that they have. However, we must consider at highest paramount of our focus to be the safety of our community," says Lt. Jim Troiano of the Alachua County Sheriff's Office.

ASO is now considering whether to separate offenders and predators in hurricane shelters. Some people even with young kids says it's unnecessary.

"I think hurricane shelters are public venues, and there should be many many people there. And, I don't think there would be a situation where a sex offender would have an opportunity to ply his trade," says Jeff Hurt while watching his granddaughter.

Mother Laura Donda says, "It's a bit of paranoia if anyone is worried in that situation. When there is a crowd of people gathered there's not much room for sex offenders to do anything."

Alachua county leaders could make a decision as soon as next week on whether separate shelters for sex offenders and predators are needed.

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