The areas around USF might become a hot spot for sexual predators.
The problem, according to the St. Petersburg Times, began when Tampa’s city council decided it would seek to force sex offenders to keep a distance of 2,500 feet between their residences and schools, parks and playgrounds. Such a plan would expand the current 1,000-foot minimum, putting 1,500 more feet between sex offenders and gatherings of their likely victims. But there are so many parks, playgrounds and schools in Tampa that the 1,500-foot expansion would concentrate sex offenders in a few areas. One of those areas is home to USF.
Tampa’s city council doesn’t want this, for obvious reasons, so they decided to ask attorneys for the city if they could ban all sex offenders from moving into the city limits.
While the constitutionality of such a law is uncertain, Miami Beach and Dyersville, Iowa both have similar laws. If the new law is enacted, the estimated 500 offenders already in Tampa will not be forcibly evicted, but new sex offenders would not be able to move within the city limits. Any sex offender caught after the ordinance took effect would essentially be run out of town.
Aside from constitutionality, there are other problems with the idea. City council member Linda Saul-Sena has concerns that, while sex offenders may be chased out of Tampa, they’ll have to go somewhere. Supervision of sex offenders might become more complicated.
There’s an easier solution, however. Keeping offenders locked up for the rest of their lives would be simpler, for instance. Best of all, it wouldn’t even require new laws.
The Jimmy Ryce Act provides for involuntary civil commitment of sex offenders with “mental abnormality, such as pedophilia, which, combined with their history of committing sexually violent acts, make them a special danger to the public,” according to the Jimmy Ryce Center for Victims of Predatory Abduction. The state is under no obligation to release these offenders from civil commitment until they have probable cause to believe that the offender is no longer a danger to society.
Desiring a law that forces predators to stay out of the city, or worse, makes them stay so far from schools that they are all concentrated in a few unlucky areas, shows little faith in the Jimmy Ryce involuntary civil commitment statute. Indeed, the act specifically allows for sex offenders to remain in the state’s care for an indefinite amount of time.
Tampa doesn’t need new ideas of uncertain constitutionality to combat sex offenders. It needs to use the laws already available and stop allowing sex offenders the liberty they don’t deserve.