Florida's restrictions on where sex offenders can live might be both ineffective and endangering the public, a legislative analyst said Tuesday.
Marti Harkness, a criminal-justice analyst, told the House Public Safety & Domestic Security Committee that studies from Florida, Minnesota and Colorado showed almost no link between a sex offender's residency and the crime he committed.
But onerous residency restrictions increase the chances that offenders will be homeless, hard to track and more likely to commit new crimes, said Harkness, who works for the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability.
"I'm not suggesting we should feel sorry for them," Harkness said. "But I guess what I am saying is that research shows that to prevent a sex offender from living with their families or [to make them live] farther away from work or treatment because of residency restrictions, you may actually in fact diminish public safety."
Harkness and the committee members said that more electronic monitoring of sex offenders was a better way to control them.
Under state law, sex offenders can't live within 1,000 feet of schools, day-care centers, parks or other areas where kids congregate. But 148 local governments across the state have imposed stricter requirements -- a 2,500-foot ban.
That has led to a crisis in places like Miami-Dade, where sex offenders live under the Julia Tuttle Bridge between Miami and Miami Beach to comply with the law. Showing a map of Miami-Dade, Harkness pointed out that sex offenders have almost nowhere else to live under a 2,500-foot ban -- except for Miami International Airport.
"You could have them lining the tarmac, I guess," Harkness said.
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