OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Restrictive residency requirements for convicted sex offenders are preventing many from finding a place to live in Oklahoma cities and towns and may be to blame for a dramatic drop in sex offender registrations, authorities told state lawmakers Tuesday.
Lawmakers huddled with federal, state and county law enforcement officials and prosecutors to discuss problems with the state's Sex Offender Registration Act and a proposal to create a tiered registration system that would not treat all sex offenders alike.
``Putting the tiered system in place is a huge step,'' said Rep. Gus Blackwell, R-Goodwell, the author of legislation that would create a system to assess sex offenders individually to determine their level of risk to the community.
Victims' rights advocates and sex crimes investigators from Oklahoma City and Tulsa said residency requirements that bar convicted sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a park, day-care center, playground or school are forcing them to move to rural areas where treatment options are limited.
Others may simply not comply with the registration requirements, they said.
``If people are falling off the sex offender registration, no one is protected,'' said Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater.
Officials said the point of the registration guidelines is to monitor and supervise sex offenders, not to drive them underground.
``If these people are not registering, these people are moving into your neighborhood unknown,'' Blackwell said.
Currently sex offenders can range from child rapists to drunken college students caught urinating in public. But all are treated the same under state law and must register on a public sex offender list for the rest of their lives regardless of the seriousness of the crime or their potential to offend again.
The change would allow law enforcement to focus its efforts and resources on sex offenders who pose the biggest threat, said Rep. Ryan Kiesel, D-Seminole.
Blackwell's bill would set up a risk assessment review committee at the Department of Corrections. The committee would look at each case before a sex offender's release from prison and give each person a risk level ranking.
A tiered system will be mandatory in all states by 2009 as part of the federal Adam Walsh legislation, which requires all convicted sex offenders be placed in a risk category, including those in the system now.
Blackwell said residency requirements would be removed for a level-one offender but that more serious offenders would still face restrictions on where they can live.