Concerns over the state's new violent offender registry

Tuesday, July 20th 2004, 10:19 am
By: News On 6

A new state law targets people who do shootings and other violent crimes. The law goes into effect November 1st and will require all people convicted of violent crimes, to register with the police, much like sex offenders do.

News on 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright says on the surface, it sounds like a good law, but some say there are problems with it that make it not so good.

The concept of the law is good, to let police and citizens know where violent criminals live so we can all be safer. But one problem is the cost. Tulsa is only able now to keep track of its 500 sex offenders because of grant money. They say making them track more people without any more money, at a time when they're down to fewer police officers than ever, isn’t realistic.

Tulsa Police Cpl Randy Lawmaster: "It becomes more difficult. We can't register everyone who's ever had a felony, it's too manpower intensive, but, that's what we're moving toward, adding more and more crimes."

Police say the sex offender registration already proves a registry isn't a guarantee of no new crimes. Plus, some people with no violent past commit terrible crimes. For instance, JB Cole's priors were burglary and car theft, so he wouldn't qualify for the new registry, yet he went on to kill an elderly Tulsa man.

Others have a more philosophical difference with the law. They say what happened to second chances. Should a person who's served his time, be branded for years to come. They say if the law prevents crime, it might be worth it, but, they don't believe it will. Public defender Sid Conway: "I had a conversation with a lawyer down the hall and he said before long, shoplifters will have to wear a sign that says thief. Where does it end and to what end, I don't think it's going to stop crime."

Plus, they say it unfairly punishes people like Ernest Harper who are rehabilitated. In the six years he's been out of prison for a double murder in the 70's, he's lived a crime-free life.

The new law goes into effect November 1st. People must stay on the registry for at least 10 years.

The law was created because an 89 year old Wewoka woman was murdered in her home by a man who'd previously been in prison for manslaughter.