TAMPA — Whether 5 miles away, down the block or just next door, if a new neighbor is a registered sex offender or predator, citizens can now be notified via e-mail alerts.
The free service provided by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement allows citizens to create an account that will send an e-mail alert within 24 to 48 hours of an address change for offenders and predators in the state's registry.
Alerts also can be set up to track any individual sexual offender or predator, the agency said Thursday. Users can track an unlimited number of addresses and offenders and predators.
The new tracking feature will not notify individuals of offenders and predators already living in their area, but that information is also available at the Web site: www.flsexoffender.net.
The new messaging system became available to the public Thursday, and is just the latest online upgrade from the FDLE.
Last year the agency offered the ability to search for an e-mail address or instant message screen name for sexual offenders and predators.
The FDLE developed the notification service in response to the federal Adam Walsh Act, which aims to expand the national sex offender registry, strengthen federal penalties for crimes against children, and make it harder for sex predators to reach children on the Internet.
"This is a big jump for us as an agency and a state," said Jim Madden, special agent in charge of Tampa Bay regional operations for the FDLE. "It provides a practical tool."
Eleven other states have a similar e-mail alert system, said Madden. The service is free to citizens. Madden said it costs the state $50,000 a year for two years and the agency plans to renew the service after that.
Amber Mobley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 269-5311.