Signs at Fla. homes warn that sex predators live there
STARKE, Fla. — Brian Speer thought he had completed all of his obligations when he registered in Bradford County as a convicted sex predator since serving an eight-year prison sentence for child molestation.
But now, in addition to submitting to a public registry for sex offenders, he has a permanent reminder of his crime posted right in his front yard: a bright red sign reading, “Brian Speer is a convicted Sexual Predator and lives at this location.”
The sign is one of 18 the Bradford County Sheriff's Office erected in mid-April outside the homes of convicted sex predators.
The signs have been praised by many residents in the small rural county southwest of Jacksonville, but some question whether the measure reaches too far and could be harassment against people who have served jail terms and submit to the public registry. Neighboring Baker County started a similar program six years ago.
“I believe that anybody that has any criminal background should have a sign in front of their house if we have one in front of ours,” said Speer, who was convicted of lewd or lascivious molestation in 2004.
Bradford officials say they are working within the discretion afforded by state statutes, which mandate that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement use the Internet to notify the public of all sexual predators and requires that a sheriff or police chief conduct community notification of a sexual predator's presence.
It does not specify how that community notification must take place. It traditionally has been done through fliers, print and television media, and websites, but Bradford County Sheriff Gordon Smith thought his office could do more.
The federal Sex Offender and Registration Act, passed in 2006, sets minimum standards for sex offender notification across the country. There is no central database to track how agencies notify residents, but counties and towns in other states have tried sign programs with mixed success. Judges have ordered signs to be posted outside the homes of specific sex offenders in cases in Texas, Louisiana and Oregon.
Sign placement has been shot down. In 2009, a Kansas appeals court overturned a judge's order requiring a sex offender to post signs on both his home and vehicle.
In Bradford County, Smith said that when his chief of jails told him about Baker County's sign program, he jumped at the idea.
Brad Smith, the office's chief of operations, said the sheriff cleared it with the county attorney. The first signs were posted April 16.
“We realized it was not only a good idea, but something important to ensure that a consistent notification was being made,” Brad Smith said. He said residents not living in Bradford County when original notifications go out could be unaware of a sexual predator's presence. With permanent signs, that is less likely.
The signs are only for sexual predators, not for all sex offenders, Brad Smith said. Florida defines a sexual predator as someone who has been convicted of a first-degree sex crime such as child molestation or sexual battery or has been convicted of two second-degree sex crimes such as solicitation of a minor or lewd, lascivious, or indecent assault. A judge can designate a person a sex predator.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- 7 shot at Florida spring-break house party
- Bulk calling data won’t be collected
- Global warming is slowing down the circulation of the oceans — with potentially dire consequences
- Republican presidential hopefuls near-unanimity on the issue of their own guns
- A bipartisan push on toxic chemicals makes some Democrats fume
- Run from Cuba, Americans cling to claims for seized property
- Attorneys: Sterilizations were part of plea deal talks
- Keep Gitmo prisoners swapped for Bergdahl out of fight, senator says
- Excessive use of solitary found for juveniles in Baltimore jail
- Report: Prepare to drill for oil in Arctic
- Pentagon shielded Chilean torture, slaying suspect