Tulsa area police officers are concerned new restrictions on sex offenders might create new problems in tracking them down.
The News on 6 first told you last week that new laws restrict sex offenders from living in almost 95-percent of the city. If they can't find a place to live, law enforcement agencies are concerned they might not register at all.
News on 6 reporter Ashli Sims says Oklahoma has worked for years to try to protect its citizens from convicted sex offenders. The state makes sex offenders register where they live, so neighbors can be aware.
State lawmakers have severely restricted where sex offenders can live, anywhere within 2,000 feet of any school, park, playground or licensed day care center is off limits. Those lawmakers say they're making a good faith effort to protect the public. But now law enforcement agencies are concerned this new protection could hurt efforts to track sex offenders.
Tulsa Police Detective Tim Lawson: â€œThe enactment of the sex offender registration act afforded everyone the opportunity to know who was in their neighborhood or who lived in their community if we lose track of them because they no longer come in to register because it's too restrictive we're gonna lose that."
The red, green, and blue circles on this map represent areas where sex offenders can no longer live, thatâ€™s about 95 percent of the city. There are a few patches of white, but when you consider every McDonalds or Burger King with a playground, these areas are even smaller. And what's left are often high priced neighborhoods, many offenders can't afford. Tim Lawson: â€œWeâ€™ve already been contacted by one of the state representatives office about one of his constituents not being able to find housing in the city of Tulsa.â€
Tulsa Police detective Tim Lawson and a taskforce of area law enforcement officers, state correctional officers and prosecutors who specialize in sexual offenders, are working on a plan to try to fix the problem. They want to classify sex offenders into categories, separating those who are a low risk to the community, from those who are considered sexual predators.
Those sexual offenders considered high risk would have the highest restrictions on where they can live. Low risk sexual offenders could have more flexibility. The group is still working out the details, but they say its working in other cities.
There are no official plans to change the current law. But law enforcement agencies believe this problem will only grow, because every Oklahoma city is affected by these restrictions.