TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — The killing of an Ohio college student who was bicycling alone last summer and the arrest of an ex-con who lived nearby is the kind of random crime that shakes a community’s sense of security and sparks calls for change.
Two state lawmakers now are looking at proposing legislation that would create an online registry tracking violent offenders after they’re out of prison. Only seven states maintain publicly accessible lists that keep tabs on violent offenders.
Some questions and answers about how such a system would work:
WHO WOULD BE FORCED TO REGISTER?
One of the main issues is where to draw the line. Some states track only murderers, while others include kidnappers, arsonists and those convicted of aggravated assault.
It’s unlikely everyone with a felony would be on the list in Ohio, but it also needs to cast a wide net to be effective, says state Sen. Randy Gardner, a Republican from northwestern Ohio who is leading the effort to craft the registry.
Fulton County Sheriff Roy Miller suggests that judges should have some input on who is required to register because not all crimes are the same even under the same charge.
A bar fight is different from an unprovoked attack on a stranger just like an abduction by a parent in the middle of a divorce isn’t the same as a random kidnapping, he says.
WHAT’S THE COST AND WHO PAYS?
This is the other big question, especially for law enforcement agencies that likely would be tasked with keeping the registry updated.
The overall cost of maintaining a registry would come down to how many offenses are tracked and how often offenders must sign up. Is it a lifetime requirement or does it last 10 or 20 years?
Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn says he’d probably need to hire someone just to keep up with updating home addresses and photos if such a registry covers a broad range of offenders.
Some states charge offenders a registration fee to help cover the costs.
HOW LIKELY IS THIS TO HAPPEN?
The legislators looking into the idea say a registry is unlikely to get off the ground without support from law enforcement.
Other questions are sure to come up, including whether registries deter crime and whether forcing people to register after they’ve served their time amounts to perpetual punishment.
But Gardner, who this past week became the third-ranking Republican in the GOP-controlled Senate, says he’d rather be on the side of improving public awareness and public safety.