You might not look twice at the house at 939 Oak St. in Starke, Fla., if it weren't for the large red sign in front of the home (pictured above) that declares: "John Goodman is a convicted Sexual Predator and lives at this location."
The sign is one of 18 that the Bradford County Sheriff's Office erected outside the residences of convicted sexual predators in the community last month, The Associated Press reports. (Neighboring Baker County started a similar program last year.) According to Bradford County Sheriff Gordon Smith, the purpose of the reflective red signs, pictured at left, is to ensure sex offenders are unable to hide and to keep citizens informed about sex offenders in their community.
"If it prevents one more victim in my community, I've done my job as sheriff," Smith told Jacksonville's First Coast News. "I have no sympathy for predators, my main goal is to protect children and senior adults."
And though this approach has been generally well-accepted by many residents, according to The Associated Press, there's debate over whether the signs can be considered "harassment" against people who had already served jail terms and submitted themselves to the public registry. Counties and towns have tried sign programs with mixed success, the AP reports: In 2009, a Kansas appeals court overturned a judge's order requiring a sex offender to post signs on both his home and vehicle.
"I've done learned my lesson," convicted sexual predator John Goodman (pictured at right) told First Coast News. "I don't do things like that anymore."
Similarly, sex offender Brian Speer, whose home also now bears that same reminder of his past, objects to the sign. "I think it's a lot of bull," Speer told the AP. "I believe that anybody that has any criminal background should have a sign in front of their house if we have one in front of ours."
Some sex offenders, however, accept and even embrace the naming and shaming: Jeffrey Mitchell of Miramar Beach, Fla., even went so far as to post his own warning sign in his front yard, reading: "Sex offender residence till the day I die." According to Mitchell, it's not that he wanted to be vilified or cast out of the community. "It's a dialogue that should be started," Mitchell told TV station WJHG.