The number of sex offenders and predators living in Florida has been rising steadily for more than a decade, according to a new report put together by legislative auditors.
The report issued late last week stated that nearly 29,000 registered sex offenders and predators now reside in the state. That's an increase of 53 percent since 2005, when state legislators first ordered their auditors to review the state's efforts to keep an up-to-date registry of sex offenders.
The report by the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability does not include any explanations for the rise.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement maintains a statewide database that tracks people who have been convicted of certain sexual offenses and have been released from prison. Judges designate certain offenders as sex "predators" if they are deemed an "extreme threat" to public safety because they have targeted children or engaged in physical violence against their victims.
Sex offenders are required to register with local sheriffs once they leave prison or are placed on supervision.
Legislative auditors noted that the state's registry lists more than 73,000 sexual offenders and predators, but the majority of them do not live among the public in Florida. Instead, many of them live in other states or have been sent back to prison.
Auditors stated that the typical registered sex offender in Florida was a white, middle-aged male: 75 percent of those on the registry were white, followed by African-Americans at 24 percent.
The report includes a county-by-county breakdown showing that urban counties had the highest overall number of sex offenders. Orange County, which is in central Florida and home to Orlando, had the highest total with 2,299 followed by Duval County in northeast Florida with 2,018 registered offenders.
Two smaller rural counties, Dixie and Gadsden, had the highest percentage of offenders on a per capita basis. Dixie is in north central Florida on the state's Gulf Coast, while Gadsden is west of the state capital.