WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — More than 25,000 convicted criminals, under the supervision of the Florida Department of Corrections, are now at large.
They are called absconders, people on probation or parole, who are missing or have unserved warrants. The number is based on current records sent by the DOC to Contact 5 in January 2019.
Some absconders have been on the DOC's list since the 1970s.
(Scroll down and you'll find an interactive absconder database and county by county absconder map in this article below).
JUAN ROBINSON: MISSING SINCE 2017
Ask Frederick Allen of Fort Lauderdale and he'll tell you, he knows how to slay the guitar.
"I've been playing in nightclubs since I was 18 years old. The banker's club, the tower club. The orange bowl committee. I played them all," says Allen.
But in 2014, Allen had to slay a different kind of instrument.
"A machete," Allen says. "He was close enough to swing a machete at me."
Allen is talking about when Juan Robinson, a man he didn't know, walked into Devine Food Mart when Allen was inside one afternoon.
"He hit the one guy Ronald outside with his fists and knocked him to the ground," says Allen. "Then came into the store with a machete on him and started swinging it at me."
"I held up a potato chip rack and started to try and put it between me and the machete," Allen says.
In 2016, Juan Robinson pleaded no contest to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and was given two years of probation. The state allowed him to move to Georgia, but he had to bring his probation status with him.
According to court records, Robinson later violated that probation in Georgia, and failed to show for a hearing in Florida when asked to appear.
A warrant was issued for Robinson in September 2017.
25,000 ABSCONDERS - MANY WANTED ON SERIOUS CRIMES
Robinson's considered an absconder by the Florida Department of Corrections, people who were on parole or probation, that are now at large.
State records show there are more than 25,000 absconders among us, accumulating over 40 years. Many of these absconders are wanted on very serious crimes.
Jeffrey Tamayo led police on a high speed chase years ago, ending in a shootout that killed his mother. Tamayo is one of 21 offenders sentenced on capital murder crimes that have disappeared.
Charles Maize was convicted of capital sex battery crimes. He threw his tracking device away and hasn't been seen since November.
Some offenders have been on the run since the 1970s.
Contact 5 asked the Florida DOC multiple times over six months to sit down and talk about what's being done to find these absconders, with us, on camera. The department refused.
In an email, a DOC spokesman said in part, "It is the responsibility of offenders to make themselves available for supervision."
He said when someone absconds, the DOC does what the law requires, and report it to the courts for a warrant.
CHECK OUR ABSCONDER DATABASE/COUNTY BY COUNTY ABSCONDER MAP
Contact 5 took Department of Corrections' records and created an absconder database.
Take a look at some of things we found:
- 54 offenders were sentenced on capital sex battery crimes, like Charles Maize, are out in the wind.
- 70 sentenced for aggravated stalking
- 132 sentenced for kidnapping
- 306 sentenced for child abuse
There are thousands of offenders with past domestic violence arrests.
Jennifer Rey works with their victims every day.
"It's really critical to be looking for absconders who are domestic violence perpetrators because they have committed to harming and or killing this one particular individual," Rey explains. "They (the victims) say, I never stop looking behind me. I never get a chance to rest if that makes sense."
WPTV also created a map below that shows county by county how many absconders were last seen there. (click here if the map doesn't load)
Palm Beach County has 851 absconders while Broward County has the most with 3,325. The location represents the county where the absconder was assigned probation.
We asked the Department of Corrections if the large number of absconders is a high safety concern.
A spokesperson said, "the number of absconders is a very fluid number, the majority of which has accumulated over the last 40 years," which doesn't answer the question. The data we received from the DOC regarding absconders is current as of January 2019.
Pictures of the absconders are on the DOC website , under offender search. Please contact local law enforcement if you have any information.
Local law enforcement agencies across our five county demographic either declined to talk on camera about their warrant system, or could not accommodate our requests in time.
We are told Violation of Probation/Absconder warrants are only a small piece of the warrants they are responsible for everyday.
STATE ABSCONDER UNIT
Contact 5 found there is an Absconder Unit for the state. A DOC spokesperson says "the unit partners with various law enforcement agencies to provide and share information and cross-analyze databases to generate leads."
Here are some of the questions we asked. The DOC said "they would not move forward with an interview" when we asked for one with the unit.
How does the absconder unit track and investigate absconders?
FDC’s unit uses a series of databases and reaches out to individual law enforcement agencies for information on absconder apprehensions and locations. Physical tracking or investigating of absconders would be handled by other law enforcement like a county sheriff’s office or local police department.
Does the absconder unit rank those on the list. Are their some people considered higher priority than others?
The Department does not have a ranking system. We report offenders in the order they abscond. Our duty lies in ensuring all probation violations are reported to the courts for appropriate warrants to be issued. Apprehension of any offender who has a warrant for violation of probation is handled by other law enforcement entities.
How does the unit determine who to search for with such a large number?
All absconder cases are reviewed every year to ensure warrants are still active and information is up to date.