Sex offenders, predators to announce themselves at shelters

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Registered sex offenders and predators living in Indian River County will have to announce their presence at emergency shelters or face being arrested after the Board of County Commissioners supported the measure this week.

There are 154 sexual offenders and predators in Indian River County under either state supervision or required to register, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Of those, only two are sexual predators – the worst of the two groups due to the typically violent nature of their crimes. The Indian River County Sheriff’s Office requested a change to the county’s ordinance (crafted by the state) that requires sexual offenders and predators register their place of residence. That change would require offenders and predators to notify emergency shelter personnel of their presence.

“It’s going to be virtually impossible to segregate anyone” from the general population at the shelters, Sheriff’s legal counsel James Harpring told commissioners. He said that if space permits at shelters, personnel would separate the offenders and predators.

However, at least law enforcement and shelter workers would be aware that a sexual offender or predator was there.

It would be an “absolute waste of resources” to establish a shelter specifically for offenders and predators, Harpring said, noting that there would be no way of knowing how many would actually use the shelter in the event of an emergency.

He added that there has been a massive campaign to inform residents that shelters should be used as a last resort and that they should try to make arrangements for shelter elsewhere.

Offenders and predators who fail to announce themselves at the shelters – and discovered – would be arrested and face a charge of failing to comply.

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