Both federal and Florida law facilitate oversight of sex offenders and predators living in Florida communities, with state agencies and local law enforcement monitoring, registering, verifying, and providing information about sex offenders. Florida is one of 17 states that is substantially compliant with federal sex offender registry requirements. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s (FDLE) sex offender registry lists more than 78,000 offenders and predators, of which, just over 30,000 reside in Florida communities, a number that has grown 62% since 2005. Approximately 6% of registered sex offenders living in Florida communities are homeless or transient, with rates varying by county and ranging from 0% to over 25%. Sheriffs’ offices reported that homelessness among sex offenders presents challenges to verifying offenders’ locations and determining compliance with residency requirements.
In 2020, FDLE completed a multi-year redesign of the sex offender registry, improving functionality for both law enforcement and public interfaces, including separate mobile applications. While federal law establishes baseline requirements for state laws, registries vary in areas such as sex offender categorization, public availability of offender information, and registration duration. Sheriffs’ offices reported adopting various strategies for registration, address verification, and public notification to meet statutory obligations. Additionally, during the COVID-19 pandemic, sheriffs’ offices and state agencies reported making modifications to processes in response to statewide office closures and local conditions.
Federal and state laws require sex offenders to report if they are enrolled, volunteering, or employed at institutions of higher education. FDLE, Florida Department of Corrections, Department of Juvenile Justice, sheriffs’ offices, and institutions of higher education have responsibilities regarding campus notification when a sex offender attends, is employed by, or volunteers at such institutions. OPPAGA found that institutions of higher education are taking steps beyond the statutory requirements when sex offenders are present on campuses. However, OPPAGA’s analyses found differences between FDLE and institution records on the presence of sex offenders on campuses.