Port Orange leaders discuss sign placement in sex predators' yards

Supporters say move intended to protect children

PORT ORANGE, Fla. - A controversial move to make sure everyone knows where sex predators live has Port Orange City leaders discussing whether it's legal to post signs in front of the registered predators' homes.

Supporters said at Tuesday night's Council meeting that posting signs in yards is legal and will protect children.

"It's about our children. We can't have several predators and offenders in that close distance of our children," said Margie Patchett, who sparked the push to get the signs planted in front of every local home of a sexual predator.

However, the topic was so controversial, city leaders decided they needed time to research it before even talking about it publicly.

Vice Mayor Don Burnette brought up the idea a week after the Council voted to push sex offenders further away from churches and schools after fears sex offender Howard Porter was living too close to a school.

"Just because people have a constitutional right to live somewhere doesn't mean I have to like it and roll out the welcome mat to people who are particularly dangerous," said Burnette.

Even Burnette had concerns about whether putting the signs in convicted sex predators' yards is legal. Other Council members fear the signs in yards could hurt property values.

"I have to really think about the implications of sexual predators signs dotting an area we are trying to rehabilitate," Bob Ford said.

"I am more concerned about the safety of our children than I am about property values," said Patchett. "I think it is more dangerous for our home values that they (sexual predators) remain in our community."

Patchett learned about the signs after hearing about another city in Florida that is already using them to warn neighbors about sex predators.

The signs would only be posted where sex predators live but would not name the sex offenders. The Council made no decision, but it plans to put it on the agenda soon.

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