Some 70 paroled child sex offenders, now living in a flimsy village of tents, cardboard boxes and rusty campers in an industrial zone just east of Miami International Airport, were told this month they had to find a new home yet again. Because most South Florida counties and cities have laws designed to keep them far from children, the options for moving are few and far between. especially when most of them don’t have the money or means to move into permanent housing, reports the Miami Herald. In the past few years, similar encampments of convicted sex offenders under harsh residency restrictions have been forced from several other sites. “It’s like a game of Whack-A-Mole,” said Pastor Frank Diaz, who visits camps each week to feed, listen to and pray with a group most people disdain as social pariahs.
The forced nomadic existence creates a host of challenges for law enforcement agencies charged with keeping track of offenders. Those problems raise questions about the accuracy and effectiveness of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s sex offender registry, which was touted to inform the public about potential risks from sex predators. Studies suggest harsh living restrictions and registries have not been effective. A 2015 study of adult sexual offender management by the U.S. Department of Justice concluded that despite broad public support, residency restrictions may do more harm than good. Jill Levenson, a Barry University sociologist who conducted a similar study, concluded that residency restrictions are more likely to increase the number of times convicted offenders repeat a sex crime. Police lose track of hundreds of sex offenders. As of November, Florida had 44,000 registered sex offenders required to check in monthly with police. During most months, Florida doesn’t know where 1,000 of them actually are and many others have registered addresses that are suspect.