JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Registered sex predatorsin the River City may soon be able to live closer to schools, public libraries and other places children frequent if the Jacksonville City Council has anything to say about it.
The city council will undergo a second reading of city ordinance 2017-667 on Tuesday. The bill’s primary function is to reduce the required distance a registered sex predator can reside near various locations from 2,500 feet to 1,500 feet, according to the bill’s description.
The bill also advises, if passed, that new and upcoming day care centers will be required to plan their locations around the 1,500 feet-rule for sex predators.
The ordinance also expands the bill to includes schools, public libraries, day care centers, parks, playgrounds and other locations that children regularly congregate at, the bill summary said.
The Planning and Development Department will need to produce a neighborhood search map using the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) database of registered sexual predators to determine if such residents exist within 1,500 feet of a proposed day care center.
The current situation with sex predators makes it “where there are no places for (them) to lawfully reside in Jacksonville.”
The bill continues by saying this “does not protect the community, but rather results in a transient (or homeless) population that poses a significant danger and menace to public health and to children if the predators go unregistered and become less traceable through the FDLE registration process.”
Councilman Bill Gulliford, who is sponsoring the bill, said the current state is penalizing small businesses, such as day care centers, who are unable to find a location to set up care centers due to the current 2,500 feet requirement.
“I think we need to take a more objective look and more rounded look (at the issue),” the councilman said.
One reason the current requirement has become a struggle for businesses is that it’s unclear how far sex predators are from proposed day care center sites. Gulliford explains that a day care center may be located within 2,500 feet of a sex predator's residence if you draw a straight line on a map, but the distance walked or driven between those two locations may be outside the 2,500-feet requirement.
When asked if he was concerned about a potential increase in sexual crimes against children, Gulliford said he does not see that as a foreseeable issue at this time. He said he believes schools, libraries and day cares have stronger forms of security to counteract that concern.
A ChildTime location in Jacksonville would not comment on the pending legislation and calls to their corporate office were not immediately returned.
As for the bill’s progress in the city council, it will go for a second reading on Tuesday. If it moves forward from there, it will go to public hearing, committee, then a final vote in the future, Gulliford said.
If passed, the bill will go into effect Jan. 1, 2018.
Clarification: The story initially referred to those affected as sexual offenders instead of sexual predators.