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Tracking transient sex offenders problematic in central Florida

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CENTRAL FLORIDA - More than 230 convicted sex offenders in central Florida are almost untraceable.

Gov. Rick Scott signed House Bill 585 on June 5. The bill adds additional requirements for sex offenders when they register in the state.

For a growing group of sex offenders, however, these requirements are unattainable and there is very little law enforcement can do about it.

According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida is home to 1,184 transient sex offenders; 121 live in Orange County, the third greatest concentration of any county

Miami-Dade County ranks No. 1 with 315 transient sex offenders, followed in second place with Broward County at 219 transient sex offenders.

All convicted sex offenders, including transient sex offenders, are required to register with the county sheriff and list an address.

In most cases, the address of transients is nothing more than a major intersection or wooded area near a road.

Of the 121 transient sex offenders in Orange County, nine list their address as the "Woods near Old Winter Garden Road / Tremont Street" and five more list their address as "Old Winter Garden Road / Kirkman Road."

"This presents a challenge for law enforcement because they do not adhere to conventional methods of tracking," said UCF Criminal Justice Professor Ken Adams. "We tend to deal with sex offenders one way, and homeless people another."

In a report to the Florida Legislature, the State Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability noted that monitoring homeless sex offenders is problematic because it is time-consuming to verify their location and provide required public notice.

The report also noted some offenders may claim a transient address to avoid legal requirements and restrictions.

In counties with relatively small transient sex offender populations, tracking is easier.

In Seminole County, the FDLE lists only four transient sex offenders and according to the sheriff's office, "they (sex offenders) register the camps they stay at as their home address and investigators visit them at that location, just as if it were a house or apartment."

While Seminole County has a small number of transient sex offenders, Volusia (49), Brevard (35) and Orange (121) are presented with a much greater challenge. Enforcement of living locations and monitoring of activity is considered by many in law enforcement as virtually impossible. Conventional methods of tracking, such as license plates, email and social network activity is rendered ineffective when it comes to transient sex offenders who in most cases do not have such things.