Sex offender maps—what they don't tell us

When you click on the bubbles, pictures and addresses pop up. I don’t know which is more disturbing, mug shots of the standard creepos--sloppy men frowning--or the photos of clean-cut men smiling. But, surprisingly, the number of sex offenders or their pictures wasn’t what disturbed me most about the site. For me, the most troubling thing was that this site doesn't provide the specifics of what these offenders were charged with.  All are simply listed under the blanket terms, Sexual Predator or Sexual Offender.

Granted, that to land on these lists, you have to do more than simply engage in a crime related to sex. For instance, most prostitutes and Johns aren't listed on this site. (If you're interested, The Palm Beach Post gives a detailed and simple breakdown of the crimes that classify offenders and predators).  Still, there's a world of difference between a rapist or kidnapper, and someone who unknowingly solicited a prostitute who wasn’t yet 18. Even the two-bit magazine Cellmates lists the specific charges beneath the mug shots of everyone who was arrested in the last month.

Also, why does this site stops at sex offenders? Why aren't we able to search for violent offenders? Thankfully none of my friends have fallen victim to a sex crime, but several have been mugged at gun point in St. Petersburg. I’m not saying that being robbed is worse than being raped. I just think that we should have just as much warning about violent offenders as we do about sexual predators.

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I’m convinced Google Maps will one day have a feature that provides detailed search results for sexual predators near you. Until then, we're stuck stalking offenders on Florida’s Department of Law Enforcement’s site, which allows you to search by county, city, zip code, or last name.

When I searched downtown St. Petersburg, little blips covered the map like one of those terrifying sex ed pictures of an STD rash.

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