Hundreds of convicted sex offenders missing in Tulsa area
According to Tulsa Police, there are hundreds of convicted sex offenders missing in the Tulsa area.
However, just because they're missing doesn't mean they're gone, said Sgt. John Adams with the Tulsa Police Department.
"The only thing we want to know and the only thing the public wants to know- is where are these guys?" said Adams.
According to Adams, the places where a registered sex offender can live in Tulsa have been greatly restricted since 2006.During that year, Oklahoma lawmakers passed a 2,000 law, stating sex offenders can't live within 2,000 feet of a school, park, or any place where children live or play.
"2006 just turned our world upside down, prior to that we had 15 to 20 (failure to register) violations a year. Since that we have hundreds of violations a year," said Adams.
Adams said because of the way Tulsa is laid out, there are almost no options for sex offender to legally live. Many areas available for sex offenders to live are either industrial areas, wealthy neighborhoods, or undeveloped areas.
"Legislators felt that if we put all of this off limits, they'll just move out of state. That didn't happen, they just stopped registering," said Adams.
Before 2006 they had around 680 registered sex offenders and now, Adams says they're less than 400.
"We're an outcast, a huge outcast, so we kind of take into each other. We know- we understand what each other is going through," said one convicted sex offender.
He wanted to hide his identity, so for the purposes of this article, his new name is 'Ben.' Ben has been living out of his car ever since getting out of prison. Each week, he goes to the sex offender registry office and registers as a 'homeless sex offender.' Homeless sex offenders are required by law to register each week and let police know where they'll be staying.
"I'm grounded to this spot, if I'm not here, we're going to come and arrest you- why- I'm freezing? I have to choose between life and death to follow the law," said Ben.
Adams said the weekly registering sets up sex offenders, like Ben, for failure.
"I agree, that if there is a danger, a person that is a danger, this can set them into their cycle to re-offend," said Ben.
Homeless shelters in Tulsa aren't allowed to take sex offenders like Ben, because of how close they are to schools or parks.
"We feel horrible when someone comes in and we find out that they are a sex offender and we just say we can't help you- you can't be here," said Sandra Lewis, with the Tulsa Day Center.
Adams said he's brought up his concern to lawmakers several times. He said, in private they'll agree, but in public- no one wants to be the champion for the sex offender.
"Now, a third of the offenders- we have no idea where they're at. You're actually less safe because you can't tell your child- stay away from the brown house with the green trim because that's a sex offender. You don't know because we've lost so many," said Adams.
Adams said they department receives grants from the state to help search for missing sex offenders, however without those grants, they don't have the man power.
He said he knows one way that Oklahoma can fix the problem.
"Get rid of everything and start all over. Get a legislative study, bring law enforcement in on the ground, and let's get something that works for everybody," said Adams.
As for now, Adams said, they'll continue to do the best they can to keep tabs on the offenders they do know.