Showdown at Tampa City Council meeting over clustering of sexual predators, offenders

Councilman demands TPD explain lack of enforcement
Posted at 6:32 PM, Mar 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-16 18:32:04-04

A Tampa City Council member is demanding answers from police after an ABC Action News investigation. Less than a month ago, we first told you about 120 sexual predators and offenders living in a one-mile radius, all despite a county ordinance that prohibits clustering.

On Thursday, TPD defended their actions. And it was a showdown in council chambers.

"We have 142 sex offenders and predators for just 600 households in V.M. Ybor," said neighbor Kim Headland. 

Neighbors are fed up. A Hillsborough County ordinance currently prohibits clustering. While deputies are enforcing it outside of city limits TPD says it has not since the agency found out about the ordinance more than a year ago.

"We are going to remain our status quo with sex offenders," said detective John Guzina in the criminal tracking unit.

He also said it's going to stay that way. Neighbors, though, called them out.

"Every department within the city that could have done something to stop the proliferation of sexual predators and offenders in V.M. Ybor instead chose to do nothing," said Kelly Grimsdale, former president of the V.M. Ybor Neighborhood Association.

Tampa as a whole has more than 800 sexual predators and offenders. The math then indicates at least 15 percent of all of them live in just one neighborhood. But TPD fired back against critics.

"There are legitimate legal and policy concerns with this ordinance," said Guzina.

He cited three states he found have ruled anti-clustering measures unconstitutional. Adding, forcing them to leave makes the community less safe.

"Legislating them into transients and homelessness undermines the very purpose of registries," said Guzina.

The detective's lengthy report full of expert statements backing up his point was cut off by council member Frank Reddick

"You can state all the quotes from the experts and all of that but its not going to solve the problem we are dealing with," said Reddick.

Council members agreed to a special workshop where they'll discuss the best solutions with all involved local agencies. They also suggested the city make its own ordinance. Chairman Mike Suarez reminded TPD, perceptions are as important as reality.

"We have to actually make them feel safe in addition to actually making them safe," said Suarez.

Council will meet for the workshop on April 27th at 9 a.m.



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