Florida officials are calling for evacuations as Hurricane Irma—now a category 5 storm—heads toward the sunshine state after causing destruction in the Caribbean. As many residents run to shelters for safety, one sheriff’s office is warning that it might not be the best idea for those with a warrant, advising them to turn themselves into jail before the storm hits.
“If you go to a shelter for #Irma and you have a warrant, we’ll gladly escort you to the safe and secure shelter called the Polk County Jail,” warned the Polk County Sheriff’s Office in Winter Haven, Florida via Twitter. “Sworn LEOs (Law Enforcement Officers) will be at every shelter, checking IDs.”
Following the tweets, the Office received major backlash from Twitter users for endangering lives. “I actually don’t think you should have to die in a hurricane just because you have a warrant,” said one user. Another wrote, “This is monstrous. You are going to kill people and their families over unpaid parking tickets.”
Sheriff Grady Judd tells People Chica that people would be taken in no matter the circumstances including weather conditions. “Law enforcement officers serve warrants regardless of where they encounter those who have them – in a storm, on the street, or at a store.” But he clarifies that immigration status will not be factored into whether or not one is admitted into shelters. “We did not say that illegal immigrants would be turned away. We are not concerned with someone’s residency status or whether or not they have ID.”
The Office also says registered sex offenders will not be allowed in the shelters. “We are here to keep people safe,” Sheriff Grady says, “We will not have those with active warrants, or those who are registered sexual offenders or predators, in a shelter with children and families.”