Martin County sheriff conducts surprise sex offender sweep

STUART, FL (WFLX) - In the matter of hours, Martin County Sheriff William Snyder knew exactly where almost all of the 166 sex offenders in his county were living.

His deputies devoted a single night to surprise sweep the area, a task that normally takes months to accomplish.

Sgt. Mike Dougherty was among the deputies out making sure offenders were not breaking the law and were living at the address where they registered. "You know, word gets out that cops are doing their checks again. You know, we're required to do it at least twice a year. So they know that they're free after six or eight months," said Dougherty.

Among the offenders checked, Mark Legat, who lives in Palm City. "It think it's crazy myself. I haven't done anything wrong like this at all. I mean it was like 30 years ago and all of a sudden, I'm put on these books," said Legat.

Convicted of attempted sexual abuse with a minor in 1988, Legat now lives in a van at the home of one of his friends who is also a convicted sex offender. "I can't do anything. I can't even go to a store, they might look at me funny. If I meet someone, I can't move into a house or neighborhood. My neighbors look at me bad," said Legat.

The sweeps usually takes months to complete.

Sheriff Snyder wanted to surprise the areas offenders to keep them on their toes. "Our goal isn't so much a 'gotcha,'" said Sheriff Snyder.

The goal, according to Sheriff Snyder, is to keep the community safe.

Most sex offenders, who were checked on Tuesday night, were in compliance.

Dougherty said the ones who were not home will eventually be found and could be arrested. "The fact of the matter is when they were convicted of their crime, this was something that basically was tattooed on them as long as they live in the state of Florida the rest of their life. And they're going to deal with us the rest of their lives," said Dougherty.

Offenders need to prove that they live at their particular residence. If they do not, under Florida law, the sheriff's office can issue warrants for their arrest.

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