Easy to forget about sex offenders, advocate warns - FOX 13 News

Easy to forget about sex offenders, advocate warns

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

For years, she was the face of advocacy. Judy Cornett fought to protect our kids against sex offenders and predators.

She protested mobile home parks where sex offenders lived. She even fought to shut down one park entirely.

But Cornett admits her vigilance has slowed during the last few years. She says it's partly because of budgets.

"It takes money to print flyers, the ink, paper, the gas to drive them around. Money has been tight."

Cornett says local law enforcement agencies and communities are dealing with tight budgets too.

"I don't think it's gone away. I just don't think people are as aggressive as they used to be, including myself. We get busy in this world and we kind of forget. Until something like this happens."

"This" is the murder of 8-year-old Charish Perriwinkle. She was killed in Jacksonville over the weekend. Police have charged a registered sex offender, Donald James Smith, with the murder.

"Molestation is still happening. The numbers haven't changed. if anything it's gotten worse. And sex offenders are coming out of prison every day," Cornett continued. "We need to get back on track. We need to get out there. We need to start doing the neighborhood notifications. We need to bring this into the schools. We need to have more safety rallies. A lot of it has died out."

Cornett started her advocacy because she knew what these victims and their families were dealing with. Her son, back in 1992, was kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and left for dead. He survived but the ordeal changed both of their lives.

Cornett's first passion is still protecting kids. She started her own group Safety Zone Advocacy, which teaches kids how to protect themselves.

"We can't, as parents, say, 'It's never going to happen to me, I'm a great parent.' That was me. I was the good parent. I never let my kids roam the streets."

Parents can now more easily track sex offenders and predators who live near them. FDLE has a registry that can track by neighborhoods or streets.

Cornett says it's hard to see how many offenders live in such a short distance.

"It's sickening. And these guys are everywhere. We don't know who's going to strike."

If you want to track offenders in your area, go to: http://offender.fdle.state.fl.us/offender/homepage.do

For information on Judy Cornett's advocacy group: http://www.safetyzoneadvocacy.org/

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