Adam Walsh Child Protection And Safety Act

Tuesday, November 28th 2006, 9:59 am
By: News On 6

Oklahoma is the first state in the nation to enforce a new federal law that gives police more tools to track convicted sex offenders. Federal charges are now being filed against an Oklahoma City man for failing to register with authorities.

News on 6 reporter Heather Lewin says one of the biggest challenges for police is keeping track of convicted sex offenders, because it's up to the criminals to come forward and be counted.

The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act is designed to improve a nationwide registry to keep an eye on offenders and hand down tougher penalties when they hide.

There are more than 450 registered sex offenders in Tulsa, but those are just the ones police know about. "The problem is we don't know how many of them are unregistered." Sgt. Gary Stansill says in the past 3 months his unit has worked 72 cases of possible violations, sex offenders who weren't on the list. “That's impossible to know where everybody is, I mean with all the technology and stuff, if someone runs and wants to hide from us, they do it, they do it all the time."

The Walsh Act will help track and apprehend offenders, who fail to register, keep sexually dangerous inmates in prison longer, improve neighbor notification and increase the federal minimum sentence for sex crimes.

The act will add US Marshals to local teams and offenders who don't register face up to 10 years in prison. "It's gonna help us as far as looking for sex offenders that cross state lines, before we had to deal specifically with other jurisdictions, now we can go to federal marshals and start interacting with them."

For investigators, the federal law to help track sex offenders is a refreshing boost in the wake of state legislation, simply regulating where they can live. Tulsa Police say it's much more important to know exactly where these people are, than make rules about where they're not allowed to go. "A lot of em are in compliance, you know, but how many are out of compliance? How many are roaming the streets that are offenders that should be registered? No one knows."

That sounds frightening, but Tulsa Police are quick to add that a very small number of sex offenders are the predatory pedophiles everyone thinks of first, it's just that those cases get the most attention.

That is why Tulsa Police want Oklahoma legislators to change the law and put the focus on the most serious offenders. Right now, a child rapist and someone convicted of indecent exposure are treated exactly the same.