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Jax Council panel defers bill changing sexual predator distance requirements

Jacksonville City Council bill that would lower distance requirements between the residences of sexual predators and day care centers/schools was deferred Monday in its first committee.

Current ordinance mandates a 2,500 feet distance; the bill would lower the distance to 1,500 feet, which is still higher than the state requirement of 1,000 feet.

Councilman Bill Gulliford, the sponsor of the legislation, said in September that this legislation was driven by two women in Mayport who want to open a day care center. But since it is 2,380 feet from the residence of a sexual predator “as the crow flies,” they aren’t permitted to.

“Kneejerk” legislation currently in place, though well-intended, has the “unintended consequence” of “accommodating sexual predators,” Gulliford said.

“If you took the over 300 sexual predators in Jacksonville, drew a radius line 2500 feet from their homes,” Gulliford said, “you would blanket the whole dadgum city.”

“When you draw a diameter around a sexual predator,” Gulliford added Monday, “it’s almost a mile.”

There are 345 sexual predators, and 1,850 sexual offenders, in Duval County.

The bill — with its pyrotechnic subject matter — was always destined to be a heavy lift, and committee discussion reflected that.

Councilman Aaron Bowman said “this is an interesting bill, and when I first read it, there was no way I’d put my name on it.”

Councilman Garrett Dennis, who is not a political ally of Gulliford’s, withheld support.

“What we’re seeing over and over again in the news with the Harvey Weinstein and so forth,” Dennis said, “I cannot and will not support relaxing rules.”

A member of the sexual offender registry spoke in favor of this legislation, saying that “these policies are often counterproductive and make our city less safe,” saying that sexual offender recidivism rates are low, at 3.5 percent, and that the current “unconstitutional” ordinance makes finding a place to live “virtually impossible.”

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades, with bylines in national and local publications alike on subjects ranging from pop music to national and global politics. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014, and has held a column in Jacksonville, Florida's Folio Weekly for two decades. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." Gancarski is a frequent presence on Jacksonville television and radio, including fill-in slots on WJCT-FM's award-winning talk show "First Coast Connect." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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