Residents and neighborhoods have the power to arm themselves with information, using a state-wide public database of sexual offenders, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.



Communities do have a way of protecting themselves with information, says FDLE spokesperson Gretl Plessinger.



"The FDLE has a public database," Plessinger said. "You can search by zip code on the FDLE website to show sexual offenders. You can also sign up for free alerts."



The alerts are automatically sent via e-mail as the FDLE receives information in real time, Plessinger said. When an offender moves into the area, or visits for more than two days, the alert will notify users as to the change.



The alert can be connected to any address you choose, such as a school, home or daycare center. The database shows there are 316 registered sexual offenders in Santa Rosa County.



Sexual offenders have been convicted of sexually-charged crimes by Florida courts. Offenses range from luring or enticing children, sexual battery, lewd and lascivious offense committed on upon or in the presence of a person less than 16 and human trafficking.



There are two tiers of offenders; offenders and predators. A sexual predator has been convicted of a sexually-violent offense and the courts have taken an additional step of designating them a predator, making them subject to stricter registration demands, according to the FDLE.



After being convicted by a court, the offenders and predators are obligated to maintain certain registration requirements with local law enforcement agencies. Authorities keep up-to-date databases of basic identification name, age, date of birth and hair color, a current photo, employer's information and all email addresses and internet identifiers.



It is required that offenders report to the local agency to reregister twice a year. Depending on the severity of the offense, they may be required to check in every three months. Predators are mandated to update their information every three months.



All offenders must report any changes to employment, living situation, vacation travel to the proper authorities within 48 hours. Offenders working or attending school in another county other than the one they reside in, must register with the county where they work or go to school, as well.



They must do this for the continuity of their lives, unless a full pardon has been granted, according to the FDLE. After 25 years, some offenders have the option to stop registering provided they have not violated any law, misdemeanor or felony. Until then, failure to meet the registration requirements results in violations and the Sheriff's Office will update the records, at the jail.



The sexual offender registry and alert system can be found on the FDLE website at offender.fdle.state.fl.us.