Some sex offenders have been living illegally in off-limit areas of Fort Lauderdale. But Operation Here Not There has swept up 22 suspects in six weeks, authorities said Tuesday.
The city prohibits sex offenders from living within 1,400 feet of a school, school bus stop or park.
The arrests were announced by Fort Lauderdale Police, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the U.S. Marshals Service.
Some suspects were found in nearby cities like Lauderhill, Pompano Beach and Oakland Park, and two were found in New York and Colorado.
Both out-of-state suspects face federal charges for crossing state lines without notifying authorities.
Data from the Florida Council on Homelessness shows that in 2011 Broward County had 103 transient sex offenders.
In 2017, the number jumped to nearly 400 in Broward County, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.
In 2014, the Florida legislature created a law focused on transient sex offenders or offenders who are homeless or don’t have a permanent address. It requires them to register with the local sheriff’s office to register their address, whether it be an intersection or some other area, every 30 days. Those who don’t face a third-degree felony.
U.S. Marshals Service spokesman Barry Golden wants other agencies across the state to take note of what Fort Lauderdale Police are doing in their crackdown of transient sex offenders.
“I’ve been to other parts of Florida,” he said. “These detectives are doing something that I don’t know of any sheriff’s department or police department that are doing this in the state of Florida. They are getting out ahead of this.”
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler said he’s glad to hear that no one else was victimized by the suspected transient sex offenders before detectives tracked them down.
“Everyone is so quick to criticize law enforcement, but when you see three law enforcement agencies working this well together, resulting in a safer community, it needs to be recognized. It needs to be commended,” Seiler said.
The operation might be over but Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Rick Maglione said the arrests are expected to continue.
U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of Florida Amos Rojas Jr. said it’s dangerous to have transient sex offenders not register their address.
He adds that the information is crucial for both law enforcement and citizens who want to go on the FDLE website to see whether any sex offenders live in their community.
“I’m extremely happy that we were able to partner with FDLE and Fort Lauderdale to make the streets a little bit safer,” Rojas said.