At last night’s City Commission meeting, the city of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida voted to remove school bus stops from the list of locations around which persons required to register as sex offenders could live.
The current ordinance (which included school bus stops in the exclusion zones) left less than one (1) percent of Ft. Lauderdale compliant for a registrant to live. There was practically nowhere in the city to live and the numbers demonstrated that.
As of May, 2019 there are 595 persons required to register in Ft. Lauderdale and 278 of them are transient. 46.7% of the sex offender population in Ft. Lauderdale is Homeless! And that number is growing rapidly because with people on the registry for life, there is zero attrition and more people being added to the list daily. Unless housing opportunities are made available the percentage of homeless will skyrocket.
With the removal of school bus stops, one percent of compliant housing would increase to approximately fifteen percent.The move was somewhat of a compromise because the proposal going into the city commission meeting yesterday was to roll the restriction back to the state’s 1000 feet, which would have left approximately thirty percent of the city compliant. Mayor Dean Trantalis expressed concern that rolling it back to 1000 feet would make the city attractive to sex offenders.
On one hand the action taken last night is a good first step and hopefully will offer some relief to the hundreds who are currently homeless. Assurance was given that if it doesn’t do enough they city can always revisit.
On the other hand, discussion over the amendment proposal was completely devoid of the important arguments; that residency restrictions don’t work, that they destabilize registrants and increase recidivism, that they make law enforcement’s job harder because registrants are more difficult to track, that they cause the homelessness that they complain of and they only govern where a registrant sleeps between 10PM and 6AM when children aren’t even in schools, parks or school bus stops and are therefore ridiculous!
I was present at the meeting last night and wavering between a sense of accomplishment and a sense of frustration. In the end, I’m resigned to the fact that this is how politics work and we’re better off moving the pendulum in the current direction than in the other. It gives us momentum with which to swing it farther. At the end of the day, there’s awareness that these SORRs are not working and at least there is dialogue and some movement.