Sat, Apr 07, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Sex offenders living under Miami highway bridge

OFFICIALLY HOMELESS Officials decided the men could stay under the bridge because they are unable to find accommodation that does not violate the county's rules

AP , MIAMI

Several paroled sex offenders are living under a noisy highway bridge and fending off rats each night because they cannot find housing in compliance with strict county ordinances for violators, state officials and one of the men said.

At least three men are living under the Julia Tuttle Causeway, which connects Miami with neighboring Miami Beach, said Gretl Plessinger, a spokeswoman for the Florida Corrections Department. One of the men under the bridge said there are five.

The state decided they could live under the bridge because the men were unable to find housing they could afford and that did not violate Miami-Dade County rules, which say sex offenders must live at least 700m from places where children gather.

They must stay there between 10pm and 6am because a parole officer checks on them nearly every night, Plessinger said.

"This is not an ideal situation for anybody, but at this point we don't have any other options," Plessinger said. "We're still looking, the offenders are still actively searching for residences."

On Thursday afternoon, one of the men, who refused to give his name, was under the bridge. He spoke in Spanish among makeshift beds built out of cardboard, which were raised slightly off the ground to keep away from rats.

About 30m away are the blue-green waters of Biscayne Bay; in the distance, luxury condominiums rise from the coastline. The noise of cars passing overhead is so deafening it is hard to hear.

The men have fishing poles for food, cook with small stoves, use battery-powered TVs and radios and keep their belongings in plastic bags.

"This is an injustice," said the man who would not give his name. "I completed my sentence."

The man refused to discuss the crime that landed him under the bridge, but state records show a host of offenses for the men who live there -- sexual battery, molestation, abuse and grand theft. Many of the crimes are against children.

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