Statistics garnered from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Sexual Offenders and Predators Web site show that there are 214 registered sex offenders/predators living within a five-mile radius of the Florida A&M University campus.
The FDLE defines a sexual predator as someone who has “been found by the court to be a sexual predator. The subject must have been convicted of either one first-degree felony sex crime, or two second-degree felony sex crimes.”
Additionally a sex offender is defined by the FDLE, as someone who has committed a sexual offense and is “under the care, custody, or control of the Florida Department of Corrections.”
In keeping with The Jeanne Clery Act, formerly the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990, FAMU is seeking to keep its students, faculty and staff safe from the grasps of sexual offenders/predators.
Upon entering the office that houses the FAMU Police Department, to the right of the couch is a small table. On top of this table are two large folders containing information that everyone on campus should be familiar with. But most often aren’t. And that’s FAMU’s crime log, which has list of sexual offenders/predators list that is updated regularly.
Assistant Chief of Police at FAMUPD, James W. Lockley Jr., said that keeping a regularly updated sexual offenders/predators database is crucial.
“It’s important, we’re required by law, federal law requires us to do so,” Lockley said. “They should come and check if they have concerns, they don’t have to come here they can also go online. We update it [sex offenders/predators log] daily, if someone registers it’s immediately put in.”
Lockley also said that as soon as a sexual offender/predator moves into an area, that individual is required to register with the sheriff’s office within 48 hours of arrival.
In the case of universities with open campuses, like FAMU, this is very important. As this form of ‘self-notification allows local authorities to keep track of sexual predators/offenders who would be able to have some form of access to individuals who are on campus at any given time.
Officer Sherri Luke, of FAMUPD’s Crime Prevention Unit, said that there are many laws and ordinances in place to protect the public, like the Clery Act and Megan’s Law, which requires law enforcement to make information about sexual predators/offenders available to the public.
“At FAMU we have an elementary and a high school, so there are certain areas they are not allowed to go,” Luke said. “There are buffers in place to protect the children.”
Kristen Perezluah, a spokeswoman in the FDLE’s public information office, said that it is up to the school how it chooses to notify the campus community.
“A sex offender or predator can enroll at a university or college as normal, it is up to the FDLE to notify local authorities,” Perezluah said. “In the case of FAMU we would notify the Tallahassee Police Department, who notifies the university, it is up to the university how they want to proceed.”
However, according to Henry Kirby, associate vice president and dean of student affairs, there are no sexual predators or sexual offenders currently enrolled at the university.
Kirby also said that the only way the university would know that an individual seeking to enroll is a sexual predator/offender, is if they register with the state and are truthful on the university’s application.
“On the general application it asks if you’ve been convicted of any felonies,” Kirby said. “If you tell the truth you’d check it. If not then when the university finds out they’ll deal with you.”
Kirby also added that if the person does not register with the state then the state would not be able to notify the university. Therefore the university would not know of this individual’s record.
“The university does not check a student’s background in the normal course of business,” Kirby said. “The only way we do know is if the person checks the required box.”
Kirby noted that though the travel of sexual predators/offenders is somewhat restricted, on any given day ” a sexual predator who is a non-student may be on the campus because it is open.”
However, The dean of student affairs said that in certain sensitive areas, like child-care, the university takes great steps to ensure that the children are protected.
“There are cracks in the system, but the legislature will have to fix that,” Kirby said. “The process offenders go through is established by the state.”
He went on to say that sexual offenders do not register their whereabouts because “some criminals don’t care because they’re already criminals, so what’s the difference.”
“I don’t think that anyone on FAMU’s campus or any other state university has anything to worry about regarding their campuses being overrun with sexual offenders,” Kirby concluded.