October 30, Updated: October 31, at Behind the wheel, John Guzina peers through black sunglasses at the rows of sun-drenched mobile homes, then gazes at a handful of papers bearing mug shots and a list of names. The photos are of sex offenders.
On Tuesday afternoon, three days before Halloween, Guzina is visiting them, reminding them that officers will be out in force, and warning them to stay away from trick-or-treaters. But for Guzina, 48, they are more than an annual ritual; they are his every day's work. As one of two detectives assigned to the Tampa police Criminal Tracking Unit, he monitors the more than sex offenders in the city. That includes sexual predators and offenders on community control, who get the closest scrutiny.
If you're a sexual predator living in Tampa, chances are you've met Guzina or his partner, Detective Mark Yost. Their job is to enforce Jessica's Law and other state laws geared toward monitoring sex offenders. They visit them all as often as they are required to reregister. For sexual predators, that means four times a year. They go to their houses.
They chat with them. They chat with their neighbors. The visits are as much about reminding offenders about their restrictions as they are about gathering intelligence.
Guzina steps out of the car, walks to a nearby home and knocks on a side door. After a moment, he slips a flier detailing Halloween restrictions into the doorjamb.
Across the road, some neighbors strike up a conversation with him. Guzina shows them his list. They tell him that the man a few doors down, a child molester, might have moved out. Guzina makes a note to check the man in a law enforcement database. If the molester moved without reregistering, Guzina can get a warrant for his arrest. In the two years that Guzina has had the job, such bits of information have led to the arrests of about sex offenders for registration violations.
That's about three or four arrests a week. In recent years, new state laws have tightened restrictions on sex offenders.
For Guzina, it means more than ensuring that offenders are actually living at their registered address. It means keeping all their information on file — everything from their phone numbers and email addresses to the cars they drive. Even smartphone applications are scrutinized, the idea being that certain apps could be used to contact children. Those under state supervision for crimes involving children are prohibited from participating in Halloween. They can't have a pumpkin on their porch. They can't display decorations.
They can't give out candy. On the other side, sexual predator Michael Morse, 36, steps over with another man to greet him. Guzina reminds him about Halloween and hands him a flier. The men chat and the detective mentions he's delivering fliers to two other predators who live nearby.
He learns one of the men drives a truck. He makes a note to make sure the truck is registered in the database. Gathering those "little bread crumbs," as Guzina calls them, can be tedious, but valuable in the event a child goes missing. For Guzina, a father of five, that possibility makes the job personal.