After a month of searching for missing sex offenders, authorities have found 537 throughout Florida and have made 203 arrests, Gov. Jeb Bush said yesterday, reports the Miami Herald. Officials acknowledged that more than 330 of the offenders identified had been deported, have died, were rearrested, or were living where they were supposed to be. Authorities have located only 30 percent of the absconded sex offenders, leaving upward of 1,200 still on the loose.
The Herald reported March 29 that 1,800 offenders listed as absconded in Florida couldn’t be found. Two weeks after the story, the state launched the Sexual Offender Apprehension Program, called SOAP, involving dozens of police agencies and hundreds of investigators. The Herald found that the offender accused of murdering 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford wasn’t even listed as absconded in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s database. The man accused of killing 13-year-old Sarah Lunde weeks later was a sex offender who had just been released from jail after failing to register his whereabouts. The legislature responded to the back-to-back killings by passing the Jessica Lunsford Act, which calls for longer sentences and electronic satellite-based monitoring of sex offenders. The state has retooled its Web site with a catchier name — floridasexoffender.net — to make it easier for people to perform sex-offender searches. The site used to average 450,000 hits a month, but that jumped to three million hits last month.