By: Mike Vasilinda
June 20, 2013
It has been two months since the Sheriff of rural Bradford County in Northeast Florida erected signs in front of the homes of sexual predators. Two have since moved, and the signs are drawing a mixed reaction.
James Mort was convicted of molesting a child under 12 and battery against a teen in 2004. Two months ago, this sign appeared outside the campground where Mort lives. Mort wouldn’t talk with us. A woman at his home used language we can’t put on TV.
The signs are the doing of Bradford County Sheriff Gordon Smith. “If my wife or my daughter breaks down and she goes to beat on the door for help I want her to know where not to go,” says Sheriff Smith.
State law requires the Sheriff to notify residents when sex offenders or predators move into an area. Smith says the 18 signs he’s erected are better than deputies distributing flyers.
Only predators are getting these signs and to be classified as a predator, you must have committed a violent crime, prayed on someone under the age of 12 or become a repeat offender.
“These are what I call bottom feeders,” adds Sheriff Smith.
While the sheriff is getting praise from many…The campground owner, who didn’t want her face on TV, is livid. “They can’t even get a stupid job because of something like this,” says Ruby Harper, Campground Owner.
And the son of the campground owner say the signs are a threat to an ongoing church effort to improve the campground. “Everybody down here knew. They didn’t need a sign,” says David Harper.
A woman with one of the churches helping residents here says the sign isn’t helping anyone. “This individual served for 18 months and he’s working very hard to turn his life around,” says Carole Stevenson, Church volunteer.
But after two months, the Sheriff is standing his ground. “I just want people to know where these people live to protect our communities,” says Sheriff Smith.
The signs are made by the county, cost about ten dollars, and they’re put up using inmate labor.