Police Have Issues With New Sex Offender Laws

Monday, November 5th 2007, 9:52 pm
By: News On 6

Oklahoma's new sex offender laws have been in effect four days, but already police and some victim advocates are demanding changes. It's not that they want the state to go easy on sex offenders, it's that they feel the laws are doing more harm than good. News On 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright reports you know when a detective, who has spent the past 20 years putting sex offenders in prison, says these new laws are not effective there must be something to it.

There are two issues with the new laws:
  1. The new three level system of sex offenders that is opposite of what police hoped for.

  2. The law results in sex offenders not being able to live in about 90% of the Tulsa city limits.

Oklahoma law says all sex offenders, even those whose crimes have nothing to do with children, cannot live within 2,000 feet of schools, daycares, playgrounds and parks. Police say before that law, about 500 people registered in Tulsa, but after, about 300 registered as sex offenders.

"I think registering sex offenders is a great idea and needs to be done,” Tulsa Police Sergeant Gary Stansill said. “I think these laws need to be looked at and in my opinion, more work be done on them."

When a sex offender used to come to the Offender Registration Office, located at 600 Civic Center, if they were living in a restricted area they were told to come back with an address in a legal place. Legislators did not like that, so they changed the law to say police must register them all, even if officers know the offender's address is breaking the law. Now, the officer must work cases on all those people living illegally and forward them to the district attorney.

"That of course, is going to be a large number of people," Stansill said.

Working those cases means less time to work other cases, like those who aren't registered at all or actual crimes, like rapes.

The other issue with the law is the three level system that determines how long sex offenders must register. Police had hoped level three would be the smallest group, the worst offenders, a priority for police time and resources. But instead, the law is so broad, nearly 80% of all sex offenders are in level three and must register for life. For level two, it's 25 years and level one is 15 years.

"It's based on crime type more than risk based assessment and that seems to be a problem," Sergeant Stansill said.

For instance, an 18-year-old boy who sleeps with his 15-year-old girlfriend is in level three and must register for life. He also cannot live near schools, playgrounds, daycares or parks. Police say spending time on that offender takes them away from the real threats, like repeat child predators.

Some say if the goal is to protect children, why not focus laws on people who target kids, not all sex offenders. Others say it makes no sense to say sex offenders cannot live near schools because most sex offenders abuse someone they know in their own homes.

Lawmakers say the three level system puts Oklahoma in compliance with a federal law, so we can receive federal money.

If lawmakers start changing these laws back, they're afraid, voters will think they're soft on crime. But, police say that voters understand a law that works is the most important thing.

Officer say there are some good changes to the law including:
  1. Home daycares are no longer part of the 2,000 feet rule, which opens up a few more places for sex offenders to live.

  2. Instead of it being illegal for sex offenders to be at a park, now it's illegal if they're loitering there (can show no good reason to be present).

Watch the video: Police Unhappy With New Sex Offender Law

Related Story:

11/1/2007 Laws Targeting Sex Offenders Take Effect