Sex offenders anger Palm River neighbors

03/06/08 Mitch E. Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Thursday | Listen to this entire show:

Hillsborough County commissioners asked County Attorney Renee Lee to explore how the county could help shut down a mobile home park for sex offenders in Palm River after several members of the community came before the Board this morning.

A nonprofit group called Florida Justice Transitions has been allowed to house nine convicted sex offenders in a mobile home park, much to the anger of local citizens.

Cindy Lamoureux of the group the Public Against Predators says it’s unacceptable.

Anthony Spino has two daughters and lives about a mile from the park. He told commissioners that the area where the park is located is not a low-income area, but fears having sex offenders there will lower property values.

Veronica Moore asked commissioners if they’d like the sex offenders residing in their neighborhoods.

WMNF spoke today with Jim Broderick, the director for Florida Justice Transitions. He strongly defended his group, and said he and the group’s founder, Nancy Morais, hopes to speak with some of the residents soon to try to alleviate concerns.

But County Commissioners were prepared to act immediately to try to shut down the park. Jim Norman asked if an injunction could be filed against the property owner as soon as today.

Hillsborough County code enforcement official Bill Langfold, told the Tampa Tribune that the project housing the sex offenders may be illegal because the property is zoned for industrial use, not residential.

But Broderick from the Florida Justice Transitions says that everything is in compliance. Broderick would not go on tape for this story.

Palm River resident Michele Williams said her community is being inundated with sex offenders. She emotionally described how she herself was the victim of an incident back in 1984.

Commissioner Jim Norman said he was hoping that a court order could stop Florida Justice Transitions from housing any more sex offenders at that property.

County Administrator Renee Lee said she would work as quickly as possible to do so.

Jim Broderick from Florida Justice Transitions also told WMNF that his faith-based non-profit group is trying to provide housing for those people coming out of incarceration that "need a transitional environment."

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