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Tulsa News Media Gets New Oklahoma S.O. Law Spectacularly Wrong

It all started as what seemed like a rather straight-forward news story by Tulsa’s News On 6 about some upcoming changes to Oklahoma’s sex offender registration law. The article, which was accompanied by a video with essentially the exact same verbiage, detailed the Tulsa Police Departments concerns about provisions of HB 1124, which were due to go into effect on November 1, 2018.  The text of the article is reprinted below, with specific passsages highlighted for your convenience:


TULSA, Oklahoma – Tulsa police say new sex offender registration laws are going to make that problem even worse when they take effect on Thursday. Tulsa police say the new sex offender laws will essentially make the entire city of Tulsa out of bounds for sex offenders to live, which they say essentially makes citizens less safe than they were before.

Starting Thursday, sex offenders are going to learn there is basically no place left in the city for them to live. The new law says no sex offender can live within 500 feet of any victim of any sex crime, whether that crime happened last year or 20 years ago.

“This is feel-good legislation, is all this is,” said Tulsa Police Sergeant John Adams.

It also adds home daycares to the 2,000-foot rule. DHS has nearly 200 of those, which means all those areas are now off limits.

“Our legislators feel they’re just going to move. No, they’re not. They’re gonna stay right here. They’re just not going to register,” said Adams.

He said that defeats the whole purpose of the law’s intent, which is to let the public know where sex offenders live.

“I put you in a room with 20 rattlesnakes. Do you want me to leave the light on where you can see them or turn it off where you can’t see them? You want the light on. You want to know where the sex offenders are living,” said Adams.

Tulsa has 460 registered sex offenders and one officer to keep track of them all. “I don’t know how we’re going to do it, I really don’t. I don’t know how we’re going to find a place for them to live legally,” said Adams.

And, of course, these law changes apply to all of Oklahoma. Police believe the sex offenders already living there won’t have to move but any sex offender coming in will have to abide by all these new laws.

Police said they do feel two law changes are positive: sex offenders cannot loiter within 500 feet of their victim or live within 2,000 feet of their victim.


For the sake of brevity, we won’t reprint the entire text of HB 1124, which can be found here.  But we will compare certain parts of the article with the text of the actual law, as amended, passed, and signed into law on April 17, 2018 to test their accuracy.


The News On 6 article claims:

“Tulsa police say the new sex offender laws will essentially make the entire city of Tulsa out of bounds for sex offenders to live…

“Tulsa has 460 registered sex offenders and one officer to keep track of them all. “I don’t know how we’re going to do it, I really don’t. I don’t know how we’re going to find a place for them to live legally,” said Adams.”  

“Our legislators feel they’re just going to move. No, they’re not. They’re gonna stay right here. They’re just not going to register,” said Adams.

(Editor’s note: The obvious implication in all of these statements is that all 460 registrants will be forced to move.)

What HB 1124 actually says:

“Establishment of a day care center or park in the vicinity of the residence of a registered sex offender will not require the relocation of the sex offender or the sale of the property” and also, “Nothing in this provision shall require any person to sell or otherwise dispose of any real estate or home acquired or owned prior to the conviction of the person as a sex offender.” (Both excerpts from Section 590. A.)

The verdict? The Registry Report finds these statements by News on 6 to be misleading at best and, at worst, just plain wrong.

wrong


The News On 6 article claims:  

“The new law says no sex offender can live within 500 feet of any victim of any sex crime, whether that crime happened last year or 20 years ago.”

What HB 1124 actually says:  

“A person is prohibited from loitering within five hundred (500) feet of any elementary, junior high or high school, permitted or licensed child care center, playground, or park if the person has been convicted of a crime that requires the person to register…”

“A person is prohibited from loitering within one thousand (1,000) feet of the residence of his or her victim.”

“It is unlawful… to reside, either temporarily or permanently, within a two thousand foot radius of… a licensed child care center as defined by the Department of Human Services or the residence of his or her victim.”(Section 590. A.)

Once again, News on 6’s statements turn out to be factually wrong.

wrong

The News On 6 article quotes Tulsa Police Sergeant John Adams as saying:

“I put you in a room with 20 rattlesnakes. Do you want me to leave the light on where you can see them or turn it off where you can’t see them? You want the light on. You want to know where the sex offenders are living,” said Adams.

The Facts:  The overwhelming majority of registrants pose little to no risk to the public. In fact, sex offenders have the lowest recidivism rate of any other class of criminal offenders. The Department of Justice has reported a 3.5% reconviction rate for new sexual offenses committed within 3 years, compared to general criminal recidivism rates of 68% for all categories of crime in the same period. Considering the fact that over 95% of all sex crimes are committed by persons not on any sex offender registry, one can plainly see that characterizing all registrants as “rattlesnakes” is not only counter-productive and inaccurate, but can lead to tragic consequences such as vigilante activities and the very same kinds of knee-jerk legislation which Sergeant Adams seems to be complaining about.

We don’t know what may have caused this news piece by Lori Fullbright and News On 6 to go so spectacularly wrong. When contacted about the article by Oklahomans for Rational Sexual Offense Laws (OKRSOL) she responded thusly:


Lori Fullbright“The Sergeant of Tulsa’s sex offender registration unit, provided me a copy of HB 1124 and highlighted the newly added line in section 1125 where it says “a zone of safety“ is created….. “or the residence of a victim of a sex crime.”

It does not define it as the victim of that offender.

It does not define it as a recent sex crime victim.

It does not define it other than to say “or the residence of a victim of a sex crime.”

That is the line that has law enforcement officers concerned.”

Lori Fullbright


The problem with this explanation is, even a casual reading of HB 1124 shows exactly the opposite, as we have shown above. Perhaps she was provided just the first page of several or given an early version of the bill which did not include amendments. Regardless, this is a classic case of shabby journalism which could have far-reaching and tragic consequences for registrants and their families if someone erroneously reports a law-abiding registrant to the police on the basis of the bogus information disseminated by News On 6.

adamsThe one positive note in all of this seems to be the genuine concern that TPD Sergeant Adams has about sex offender registry laws that are counter-productive, making our communities less safe by focusing resources where they are least needed and saddling law enforcement with near-impossible tasks and unenforceable laws. For that, you deserve kudos, Sgt. Adams. But please, stop referring to registrants as rattlesnakes.

2 thoughts on “Tulsa News Media Gets New Oklahoma S.O. Law Spectacularly Wrong

  1. I think you’ve misread Sgt. Adams comments. He wasn’t criticizing the registry as a whole, he was only complaining that the new residence restrictions (as he mistakenly understood them) were too difficult to enforce.

    I would be among the first to celebrate if one single law enforcement official of any rank publicly called the registry what it is – the epitome of government waste. But I’m not holding my breath; if one ever does he’ll probably be fired the next day.

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    1. I took what he said at face value…. which unfortunately, was incorrect. I did, at least, recognize his good intentions when I said, “The one positive note in all of this seems to be the genuine concern that TPD Sergeant Adams has about sex offender registry laws that are counter-productive, making our communities less safe by focusing resources where they are least needed and saddling law enforcement with near-impossible tasks and unenforceable laws. For that, you deserve kudos, Sgt. Adams.” – Michael M., Editor.

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