Officials say 221 names were listed during the first year of Ohio’s registry for people convicted of arson-related offenses.
When Ohio joined the few states that require such offenders to register with authorities, officials hoped it would help solve more cases, deter repeat offenses and prevent deaths and property damage.
The usefulness of the registry, created last July, is difficult to evaluate. The Ohio Attorney General’s Office runs the software that houses the database, but a spokeswoman said the agency doesn’t track how often the registry is accessed or whether it has helped identify suspects in new cases.
Fire investigators have noted that won’t prove who committed the crime, but they say it gives them a starting point.
Three-fourths of the offenders listed during the first year have completed their jail, prison or community control sentences, according to information provided by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. Most of the rest are incarcerated.
About half of Ohio’s 88 counties have at least one offender on the list, and those with the highest number are among the most populous. Franklin County had 25 offenders listed, and 14 were in Cuyahoga County. Montgomery and Summit counties had 14 each, and Hamilton County had 13.
One offender on the registry had moved out of state, and several had completed their sentences and were within the 10-day window to officially register when the data was provided.
State Fire Marshal Larry Flowers said his investigators haven’t had a need to use the registry yet but consider it a potentially useful tool to have available.
“It’s certainly something that would be of value if we needed to go and look up some folks, so still maintain that it’s a very valuable tool,” he said.
The registry, which isn’t public record, is funded by registration fees paid by the offenders.
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