St. Johns County changes laws for sex offenders and predators | #childpredator | #onlinepredator | #sextrafficing

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — The St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) are strengthening restrictions for sexual offenders and predators by updating two county ordinances. 

During a meeting Tuesday night, the board voted to change a county ordinance making it illegal for sex offenders and predators to participate in holiday events involving kids under the age of 18. This would include handing out candy to children or wearing Halloween costumes to “entertain or attract children,” according to the ordinance. 

The changes come after a U.S. court ruled in 2022 that requiring signs to label the home of sex offenders on Halloween violates the First Amendment, which was a part of the original ordinance in St. Johns County.

As part of the changes, the county strengthened other restrictions to prevent sex offenders and predators to be in direct contact with children. 

This includes extending the safety zone around places children frequent, making it illegal for offenders and predators to be within 1,000 feet of the zone. The previous safety zone was only 300 feet. Safety zones would be in place in locations like parks, recreation centers, schools, daycare centers, play grounds, and other locations “designed for or primarily used by children.” 

County leaders say the changes will better child safety around the area.

“These ordinance amendments improve the safety of our community and particularly the well-being of the children living in and visiting St. Johns County,” said BOCC Chair Christian Whitehurst. 

St. Johns County Sheriff Robert Hardwick also hailed the ordinance changes. 

“The safety and well-being of our most vulnerable citizens, our children, is paramount to the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office,” Hardwick said. “These ordinance amendments are just another example of keeping our children in St. Johns County safe.”

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