Letter sent to Largo regarding Sexual Predators
I am a new resident to Largo. I have lived in the area for many years and have raised my children here. My concern is that when looking at the Pinellas County Sheriff website for sexual predators, I found over 70 offenders within a one mile radius of my home, including several predators. I realize that these people have rights but are there any rules/laws that prohibit them living within so many miles of parks, school bus stops, churches, and other public areas? It is really scary. The information we hear on the news daily points out that this is a very unstable and dangerous sub group to have living within family neighborhoods. I do believe that younger offenders that are dating within two years of their girl/boy friend should have a different status but most of the people will commit these crimes again. Don't statistics prove this?
I am a huge supporter of human rights and on that note I firmly believe that the rights of our children should be protected from people such as these. I understand that there are many cities that have quite strict rules concerning allowed areas where these people can live. Unfortunately, it looks like Largo has them everywhere! Is there anything that can be done to provide a stronger protection for the law-abiding citizens and their families? Can stronger restrictions be imposed? This is a serious public safety issue. I hope that you take the time to seriously look into and address this issue. There is not one child or woman, mother or father who doesn't deserve to have protections put into place. This issue is serious, it is growing, and steps need to be taken to let offenders know that it is not tolerated and that there are serious consequences.
- Danie Cutler
Dear Mrs. Cutler:
Thank you for your email. We in law enforcement have been alarmed by the vast number of sexual offenders and predators for many years. Unlike you, I believe that the average person is blissfully ignorant about this issue. I applaud your concern and wish more parents were like you.
This is a real problem and the points you bring up are both valid and well researched. Unfortunately there are no other legal restrictions that local officials can impose above those in the State Statute.
It is law enforcement's responsibility to track offenders and to notify the public when predators move into the area. This, as you can imagine, is a very time and labor intensive job.
The sad part is that no community is immune and no matter where you move the same situation exists. I realize that this is not a consolation to you. The problem with Florida is that our weather lends itself to our children being outdoors and unsupervised more days than other parts of the country.
Locally: - Working with all the other law enforcement agencies in Pinellas County we were able to secure federal grant funding to create a county wide SPOT unit (Sexual Predator Offender Tracking unit), which is run by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. This has proven to be much more efficient and effective than having each individual agency conduct their own legally mandated tracking, notifications and house visits. Unfortunately the fiscal cut backs have put this unit in jeopardy of losing its funding which means that the responsibility may once again become disjointed and fall back on local agencies (which we are prepared to take on as we did before the creation of SPOT). The link to their information page is; http://www.pcsoweb.com/pages/s_offender_track.html
Additionally the link to more information by FDLE is; http://offender.fdle.state.fl.us/offender/FAQ.jsp
Now the good news, the risk to your children is not as bad as the fear we as parents feel. The reports of abductions in the national media are far too often it seems but the overall percentage is still very low. Now before you swear at me through your computer screen I realize and concur that one is one too many. The really sad part is that these abductions were happening all along but never reported in the media as they are now and our parents never had a concern about letting us go out and play all day long any where we wanted to.
I wish that I could give you better news that helps alleviate your concern but I thought that being frank with you would be more appreciated. Again, as a prudent parent, reasonable vigilance and supervision on your part is warranted but the problem is not so bad as to isolate your children from all outdoor activity.
- Lester Aradi, Chief of Police
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