Florida Budget Crunch Could Eliminate Amber Alerts and Sex Offender Registry Notifications

The state of Florida is feeling an economic crunch and has asked all state agencies to trim their budgets. In response to this request to reduce spending, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) has said that it may put two high-profile programs on the chopping block.

At risk for elimination in Florida are the Amber Alert program and sex-offender registry notifications, along with 32 other law enforcement programs. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement says that these programs could be cut if the state requires the department to slice $18 million out of its budget.

News4Jax reported that law enforcement officials say that after dealing with two previous years of budget reductions, they are down to bare bones now and they will now have to consider cutting essential programs such as Amber Alerts and sex-offender registry notifications.

FDLE spokesperson Heather Smith told WOKV News that the agency has already cut 56 jobs last year, and any additional budget reductions will be in key service areas and will have an impact on public safety.

The Amber Alert program is used to quickly spread the word about missing and abducted children. The program issues emergency broadcast warnings, utilizes electronic highway signs to inform the public that the child is missing and provides details about identifying the child and suspect to increase the chances of a safe and speedy recovery.

The state sex offender registry in Florida provides notification to 44,000 Florida residents who have signed up for alerts if a sex offender moves into their neighborhood.

Steve Donaway, assistant special agent in charge of Jacksonville’s FDLE, has pointed out that these programs serve an important purpose and eliminating them would mean a reduction of public safety. Donaway said that in addition to the 56 layoffs last year, 120 people who worked for the FDLE have lost their jobs this year. There is not any more room for budget cuts without adverse results.

Donaway says that the announcement of possible program cuts is not a scare tactic or a threat. The agency has carefully looked through all of the services they provide and have to make extremely difficult choices. The core mission of the agency is their laboratory services. The FDLE does forensic examinations, testing of DNA evidence and investigations for law enforcement across the state.

Crime victims who have lost children are angry and upset at the possibility of the Amber Alert program being cut. One mother who lost her daughter at the hands of a murderer 10 years ago says she became enraged when she learned of the proposed cut. To this woman, cutting the Amber Alert program would add insult to injury and she begs the FDLE to reconsider putting the Amber Alert program on the list of possible eliminations.

The proposed list of program cuts is not written in stone just yet. If Florida lawmakers can decide on less drastic budget reductions, the Amber Alert program and sex offender registry notifications could possibly survive.