The number of sex offenders and predators living in Florida has jumped 53 percent since 2005, according to an internal audit from the state’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA).
About 29,000 registered sex offenders and predators lived in the state as of last October, the report found.
But in Osceola County, the numbers were lower than other nearby counties, including Orange, Polk and Lake.
According to the report, 491 offenders and predators lived in Osceola last year. Orange County had the highest number in the state, with 2,299 sexual offenders and predators, the report showed
The typical registered sex offender is a middle age white male, according to the report. Ninety eight percent of all sex offenders are male.
The report highlighted other key findings, including discrepancies in treatment costs and care that varied throughout the state. To fix this, the Florida Department of Corrections has entered into contract agreements with providers across all four geographic regions of Florida. Still, the report found that many sex offender treatment programs don’t operate with a state contract, so it’s difficult to monitor qualify of care for those programs.
Sexual offenders and predators also face housing barriers, according to the report. It found that 6 percent of offenders and predators are homeless or transient, though that number is higher in some communities than others.
For example, Orange County has 132 people who are considered transient sexual offenders or predators, while Osceola has 12 in comparison.
The report found that residence restrictions, a lack of affordable housing and employment issues have led to sex offender enclave communities – apartment complexes, boarding homes, trailer parks and motels that are willing to rent to people with a sex offender record.
Local and multiple state law enforcement agencies play a role in monitoring sex offenders in Florida, the report stated. Together, the agencies register, verify and provide information to the public about these individuals.
Florida classifies sex offenders as anyone who has committed certain sex-related felony crimes, like sexual battery and rape. A sexual predator is anyone who has committed these kind of crimes multiple times, has a history of physical violence or who has harmed a child.
In 2017, the state legislature appropriated $7.1 million for a three-year overhaul of the sexual offender and predator database. Expected to wrap up in June 2020, the upgrades will include new features to make it easier to find sex offenders in a community as well as phone and tablet apps for this purpose.