The sheriff of Polk County, Florida is vowing to jail arrested fugitives seeking shelter from Hurricane Irma.
Grady Judd issued the warning in a series of tweets Wednesday, reaching out to the Polk County Sheriff Office’s nearly 68,000 Twitter followers as Irma nears the Florida coast.
Judd added that police officers would check identification at every shelter to prevent sex offenders and sex predators from entering them.
A Polk County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday said that officers would check IDs and then take into custody any people who have an outstanding warrant against them.
“Officers are legally obligated to take a person into custody if they have a warrant,” Carrie Horstman told The Orlando Sentinel.
Horstman noted that authorities would not have a way to check what crime a warrant is for, meaning those with non-violent misdemeanor offenses could be arrested.
Judd’s tweets came before Irma’s potential landfall, she continued, to give people ample time to prepare.
Horstman added that the Polk County Sheriff’s office had a similar policy about sex offenders and sex predators during the 2004 hurricane season.
The Sentinel reported, however, that it is unclear if any such arrests were made at shelters for warrants that year.
Horstman additionally noted the policy would help Polk County keep a log of shelter residents but would not impact undocumented immigrants.
“We aren’t sitting there looking for people to arrest,” she said. “We are sitting there to keep people safe.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida on Wednesday said that most people with outstanding warrants are low-level offenders who pose no danger at shelters.
“[Judd’s comments] send the message that these individuals must choose between facing a natural disaster without aid and shelter or going to jail over things like unpaid traffic tickets,” the organization said in a statement.
Irma remained a powerful Category 5 hurricane early Thursday, and forecasters predict it will strike South Florida Sunday morning.