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Pinellas sex offender numbers continue to rise...

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From the Tampa Bay Times online, a very real, very large increase in sex offenders throughout Pinellas has some residents alarmed...

In just the past five years, registered sex offenders/predators in the county has increased by 26 percent, records show. There are now 1600 offenders/predators living in Pinellas county.

Most registrants in Pinellas County fall under the category of sex offenders — people convicted of a felony related to a sex crime. The minority are declared by a court as predators — those who have been convicted of a first-degree felony or have previously committed several sex offenses. Both types must register and let authorities know at all times where they are located.

In the past five years, the number of sex offenders registered in Pinellas increased by 21 percent, but the number of predators more than doubled, from 77 in October 2008 to 162 in October 2013.

Detectives don't know for sure why the number of registrants in Pinellas has increased so much, but they suspect that some other counties' stricter limits on where sex offenders on probation can live may be a factor.

In Florida, sex offenders on probation whose victims were underage may not live within 1,000 feet of a school, child care facility or other places where children congregate. But some counties and cities have tougher residency regulations. Miami-Dade and Polk counties, for example, have increased the buffer to 2,500 feet. San Antonio in Pasco County has a 1,500-foot rule.

Registrants have clustered in a handful of Pinellas communities for whatever reason. About 120 offenders and predators live at the Palace Mobile Home Park at 2500 54th Ave. N in Lealman. Many now call the Palace home. Its roughly 80 mobile homes are lined up in three rows off of Interstate 275.

The re-entry program screens potential residents; those with a high risk of re-offending are turned away, Broderick said. Once at the park, they receive counseling and life-skills training as well as transportation to the SPOT unit's office for their registrations.

About 50 reside in apartments in the 2500 block of Harn Boulevard in Clearwater. More than 30 live at the Butterfly Lodge, a motel at 12500 U.S. 19, south of Ulmerton Road. Here, the men (and a few women) undergo counseling and have a strict curfew.

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