There are more than 600 registered sex offenders who are working, living and going to school on college campuses in Florida.
The Florida’s Sex Offender Registry now allows students to search for sex offenders on their college campuses and provides a list, including their photograph, offense and residential information.
Florida State Senator Eleanor Sobel partnered with Florida’s Department of Law Enforcement to implement the search as part of the state’s existing public website registry.
Sobel sponsored legislation and secured funding through this year’s Florida legislature.
Samantha Andrews, the public information officer for the FDLE, said that the search function can help students stay vigilant.
“This is a public safety tool and it’s very important that everyone, including students, are able to be aware of their surroundings and help them make better decisions,” Andrews said.
The FDLE is encouraging all colleges, universities and post-secondary schools to add the sex offender registry link to their websites.
Although the University of Florida doesn’t currently have any sex offenders listed, its neighbor, Santa Fe College, does.
Of the three offenders listed, only one is currently enrolled, according to Santa Fe.
The information from the new search tool has raised mixed emotions from students.
Some, like Santa Fe student Stefania Strazzula, are concerned about having registered sex offenders on their campus.
“I’m just a little worried about the younger students,” she said. “There’s a lot of dual enrolled students here, especially from Buchholz, who are sixteen, seventeen.”
Alexander Christie, a Santa Fe student, said she isn’t bothered by the new information because sex offenders are already catalogued with the county and state, but it does allow students to take extra precautions.
“I’m part of the emailing list for both the state and the county,” Christie said. “If anybody who’s a sex offender moves into the area or where myself or loved ones lived, I get an email.”
Ed Book, the Santa Fe College police chief, said Santa Fe focuses on safety by using what the department terms “threat assessment.”
“We have college officials here every week to talk about who’s on our campus, whether it’s students or staff, and then we have a police force,” he said. “We’re one of only four colleges in the entire state out of 28 that deems safety and security so important that we have a police force.”
To use the university search, visit the FDLE website.