Laws governing where sex offenders are allowed to live vary by state.
Most states have laws forbidding offenders from living within a certain radius of a school. These laws make sense for obvious reasons.
In Florida, sex offenders are not allowed to live within 1,000 feet of any school, day care, or park. The law was passed in Florida’s state legislature in 2004.
With this law on the books, why would a convicted sex offender be allowed to live across the street from an elementary school?
Howard Thomas Porter lives directly across the street from Sugar Mills Elementary School in Port Orange, Florida. In 2004, Porter was convicted of distributing child pornography and required to register with both Florida and the nation's online sex offender database.
But police say Porter is not breaking any law by living across the street from the school. Porter was convicted of his crime in May of 2004. Florida’s law forbidding sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet from the school was not enacted until October of 2004. Because of this, Porter is exempt from the law and is legally allowed to stay at his current residence.
Understandably, this loophole has upset many concerned members of the Port Orange community.
"I want him permanently gone," said Christine Haring, whose grandchild attends Sugar Mills Elementary.
"He could look out the window and see the school, where the kids play on the playground, or the P.E. field," added Mike Melnicoff, who also has a child at the school.
The Port Orange Police Department does have a program in which officers routinely visit sex offenders. According to Police Chief Gerald Monahan, this program alone is not enough. Monahan says the city needs to enact a city ordinance that would apply retroactively to offenders convicted before the state’s law was implemented. Doing this would make it illegal for Porter to live in his current home.
"And we need to have one now, because of the children," Chief Haring said. "Right this minute, because the children walk the street alone."