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Deputies join sex offender force

The county's unit for tracking sex criminals will expand in January.

Keeping track of hundreds of sex offenders and predators in Pinellas County is a bigger job than anticipated, so the Sheriff's Office is adding two deputies to a team that monitors the felons.

On Jan. 14, Scott Summers, 32, and Claire Pikramenos, 48, will join the Sexual Predator/Offender Tracking Unit. They join Deputies John Jewett and Storrs "Bud" Dunklin, who started in the unit in October.

"This is growing in some ways like a spiderweb," said Lt. Carol Rasor, who oversees the unit. "As we look into it, I see the need to dedicate more staff to it because of the caseload of violations we're coming across."

The unit keeps tabs on more than 400 sexual offenders and predators living in the Sheriff's Office jurisdiction.

By law, the offenders and predators must register their addresses with the Sheriff's Office within 48 hours of being released from prison. They also must get a photo ID from the Department of Motor Vehicles and tell the agency they are registered sex offenders so a police officer can know their background.

The photographs and addresses of Florida's more than 17,000 offenders and predators are listed on a public Web site maintained by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

But many do not follow the registration rules. In roughly 30 percent of the 185 cases they've reviewed, Jewett and Dunklin have found someone breaking the rules.

Some are not living where they say they are. Others have vanished. Many drift from one place to another. A few have tried to elude the system by registering under a phony name.

The unit must unravel deceptions, locate the felons and arrest them if they have violated registration rules. They also try to find offenders who have moved to Florida from other states but have not registered here.

The unit made its fourth arrest Dec. 27 of a 21-year-old St. Petersburg sex offender who had listed his address as a place where he did not live. Just days after Christmas, Dunklin and Jewett were building cases against more than two dozen felons who are possibly breaking registration laws.

"One of the biggest things we're bogged down with is with violators. It's very intense investigations," Dunklin said. "Missing people is what they are. It's very intensive and tedious long hours. Sometimes the results are nil."

And with such a large area to cover, some days Dunklin and Jewett found themselves driving from unincorporated areas of St. Petersburg up to unincorporated areas in Tarpon Springs.

With the two additional deputies, the county will be divided in half. Jewett and Dunklin will concentrate on offenders and predators in southern Pinellas while Summers and Pikramenos will work northern Pinellas.

"Hopefully we're going to get a lot more efficient," Jewett said. "Right now it seems almost an insurmountable task. On weekends I feel guilty coming home, there's so much to do."

Pikramenos has worked for the Sheriff's Office since 1978, most recently in patrol south of Ulmerton Road.

"I'm really interested in making sure they do what they're supposed to do so the public can know and watch out for themselves and their children," Pikramenos said.

Summers has worked for the Sheriff's Office for eight years. As a patrolman, he arrested sex offenders who were violating the registration rules and realized they were not taking the rules seriously.

"We've only checked into a fraction of the total amount of offenders and predators in the county," Summers said. "The more we look into it, the more we're going to find."