Monday, February 4, 2008

FL - Crime Fighters Concerned About State Budget Ax

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State prosecutors and law officials are warning that crime could rise if they are forced to cut their budgets because of falling state revenue. Tampa alone could see a projected $1.2 million in cuts. State Attorney Mark Ober and others are concerned that the shortage could mean layoffs for an already overburdened system.

“That’s trouble,” Ober said. “That means people are going to home and not work and that means that the caseloads are going to increase. They’re already at a record high. And the only thing that can happen to public safety if that occurs, and I speak for the state attorney and the other circuits generically, the only thing that can happen if that occurs is bad.”

Mark Lunsford, the father of child murder victim Jessica Lunsford, says his daughter’s case, and the success he had passing the get tough on sex offender legislation is an example of how citizens can make a difference by speaking out.

I do it because I’m mad,” Lunsford said. “You pissed me off and so now I’m going to come at you and I’m going to fight with you. And I found a way to be a vigilante and it’s okay. You be a vigilante with the legislators and you can get away with it and you can say the things that need to be heard.”
- John Couey is the one you should take your anger out on, not all sex offenders are child killers you idiot!!!

State Attorney’s offices across Florida have already lost 2% in funding this year, or about $400,000.

FL - Amid crackdown, sex predator flees causeway

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Fearing a return to prison, a sex offender on probation allowed the battery on his ankle monitor to run down and fled the Julia Tuttle Causeway encampment early Monday morning.
- What did you expect? They were forced to live here BY THE STATE, and now the STATE are saying they cannot live here. This is EXACTLY what experts, who nobody listens to, said would happen. Why do you think many are absconding?

The Florida Department of Corrections has confirmed that Antonio Cannon, 30, fled the make-shift camp under the causeway after numerous visits by parole officers in the last week. The officers were distributing forms to the residents, all registered sex offenders, indicating that living under the bridge may be a violation of state or local ordinances.
- And it's the very probation officers who put them there in the first placed. And also I have an article or two on this blog, about a Judge forcing a man to live here. One even wanted to go back to prison, but the judge said no.

The future of the remaining offenders living under the causeway bridge was no clearer Monday than it was last week, when they were first given notices by the Department of Correction that their living arrangements may put them in violation of the terms of their probation.

A 9 a.m. Monday target for clearing out the causeway's underside came and passed with no visit to the bridge from DOC workers. And state officials said they did not plan to remove the men Monday afternoon.

''Unfortunately a lot of these offenders are misinformed,'' said Gretl Plessinger, a state DOC spokeswoman. She added that although DOC is actively trying to move the offenders from under the bridge to more permanent residences, ``no one will be violated simply for being homeless.''

Cannon's criminal record dates back to 1997 and includes cocaine distribution, marijuana possession, resisting arrest, grand theft auto, and armed robbery. He was convicted on Dec. 10 of 2007 of attempted sexual battery on a minor under 12. He served no time for the felony, but was tagged as a sexual predator and given 10 years of probation.

Plessinger said that a state-wide alert to all law enforcement agencies has been issued for Cannon.

The causeway group had been approved to live beneath the bridge by the DOC as a response to Miami's 2005 ordinance banning sex offenders from residing within 2,500 feet of any school -- a law that left few options for housing available to them. But DOC has since urged the men to sign forms acknowledging that they must make other living arrangements. For most of them, the only alternative housing is well outside Miami-Dade County.

''I'll have to move out to where the crocodiles are in the Everglades,'' said Alejandro Ruiz, 67. Ruiz is a resident under the causeway who said he was convicted of lewd and lascivious behavior in 2006. He readily admits his guilt today, saying, ``I touched the girl.''

The crackdown on convicted sex offenders' unusual living arrangement began last month in Broward County; a small group of offenders on probation who were camping under the Oakland Park Bridge were given eviction notices by the Department of Transportation, which owns the bridge.

''We anticipated something like this could happen with the men under the Julia Tuttle and we're trying to be proactive,'' Plessinger said.

FDOT spokesman Brian Rick said Monday that his agency had no plans to evict residents from under the causeway.

He said FDOT will ``work closely with DOC as they assist offenders in relocating to a residence that complies with terms of their probation as well as state laws and local ordinances.''

Carlene Sawyer, president of the Greater Miami American Civil Liberties Union, said the government is trying to banish the offenders from the county.

''There are places in Dade County that these people can live: Aventura, Pinecrest. They are expensive but legal,'' she said. ``The county told these people they had to live down there. At this time, it appears that under the bridge is a legal place to live. And there has been no court order for these people to leave.''

Sawyer said the ACLU will assist the residents to remain under the bridge.

The ACLU issued a statement Monday afternoon saying it is sending a letter to Gov. Charlie Crist urging him to direct the state Department of Corrections to find suitable lodging for homeless convicted sex offenders, like those living under the Julia Tuttle.

''Living under a bridge is not suitable lodging and requiring people to live under a bridge is cruel and unusual punishment,'' said Jeanne Baker, state board president for ACLU of Florida, in a press release. The organization is also urging Miami-Dade and the city of Miami and Miami Beach commissions to reconsider their 2,500 foot residency requirement ordinances.

''Now that they have seen the real impact of these hastily drafted and ineffective laws, the effect of which does not protect the children of our community but only creates homeless citizens,'' Baker said.

Miami Herald staff photographer Tim Chapman contributed to this report.

NY - Chemung County lawmaker wants to monitor computer activity of sex offenders

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Chemung County Legislator Joe Brennan, R-4th District, intends to look into a plan to monitor the computer activity of high-risk sex offenders.

Brennan's plan would be in addition to the residency restriction that county officials are considering. County Executive Tom Santulli and others will seek public comment on the possible restrictions at a meeting of the Breesport Neighborhood Watch at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Breesport Baptist Church.

At the meeting, an internet security expert will present information that will detail the results that other communities have had in implementing security systems for high-risk offenders.

Several counties in New York, including Tompkins County, have already implemented methods to track the online activity of offenders. Many counties use this type of information for both sex offenders as well as a condition of parole or probation for other offenses.

"I think it’s important that we realize the threat that offenders may pose not only to those who they live directly near to, but also those that they may be tempted to communicate with online,” Brennan said in a news release.

The public is encouraged to attend Tuesday's meeting.

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FL - Sex Offenders Living Under Bridge Being Forced Out

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It's a never ending shuffle game...


Miami Sex Offenders Say State Told Them To Live Under Causeway

MIAMI -- More then a dozen convicted sexual offenders who have been living under the Julia Tuttle Causeway will not have to leave immediately, but they will have to leave at some point, according to a spokesperson from the State Department of Corrections.

The men who are living under the bridge linking Miami to Miami Beach thought they had until Monday to find another place to call home. Officials said, however, there isn't a specific deadline, but they will eventually need to leave.

"There is no deadline," Gretl Plessinger, of the State Department of Corrections, told Local 10. "They do need to find a place," she said.

The state ordered the sex offenders to live under the bridge because the state has nowhere else to put them that would not be close to children. The corrections department gave paperwork to the offenders last week that they had 72 hours to pack up the camp they have set up under the east side of the main causeway bridge.

"They came and gave us 72 hours and then they came and said you have 72 hours more. I don't know what's going on," said Patrick Wiese, a registered sex offender, who lives in the camp.

The men took up the makeshift residence under the Julia Tuttle Causeway after a Miami-Dade County ordinance passed in 2005 made it illegal for convicted sex offenders to live within 2,500 feet of schools. They said they were unable to find affordable housing that did not violate the ordinance, and that the Department of Corrections assigned them to live there.

Juan Carlos Martin's Florida identification states that his address is the Julia Tuttle Causeway Bridge.

"If you made us come over here, put our address and our ID saying that we have to reside here, why are you throwing us out? That doesn't make any sense," said Martin.

Some of the offenders told Local 10 they cannot leave because they have no place to go that would not be in violation of the law.

Last week parole officers handed out paperwork offering alternative housing. The closest alternative on the list was a Motel 6 in Fort Lauderdale at a cost of $79 per night, Local 10 reported.

Last month the Department of Corrections moved a group of sex offenders from under the Oakland Park Boulevard Bridge after the property owner complained. Those men left and went west to the edge of the Everglades.

"We're being proactive by giving them more time to move," said Plessinger about the Miami group. Plessinger noted, however, that the causeway residents may stay if the bridge owner agrees.

The land under the Julia Tuttle Causeway belongs to the Florida Department of Transportation.

The eviction will "ultimately boomerang on the city" and cause offenders to go underground, said Ray Taseff of the American Civil Liberties Union in Miami.

"This is the government that created homelessness," Taseff said, "and now the government is effectively trying to banish them from the community."

The ACLU has agreed to help the men with their legal fight, Local 10 reported.


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