The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

July 6, 2014

Ohio’s arson registry grows to 221 people in first year

AKRON — A year after Ohio created a registry to track convicted arsonists, 221 people are on the list.

The vast majority are men and many are living in prison or in urban counties, according to data released to the Akron Beacon Journal by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

The state launched the registry last July as a tool for arson investigators, under the assumption that people caught setting fires may do so again.

At the time, state officials said they weren’t sure how many arsonists were living in Ohio.

It’s unclear if the registry has made a difference in any cases. The state fire marshal and an Akron investigator said they haven’t used the registry yet, but believe it’s a valuable asset to have available.

Fire marshal spokeswoman Lindsey Burnworth said it should be helpful for local fire departments, which may not know about an arson committed elsewhere in the state.

“It connects everyone,” she said. “It increases communication.”

The registry was modeled after the sex offender registry and is maintained by the state attorney general.

Unlike the sex offender list, the names of arsonists are not released publicly. Instead, they are provided only to law enforcement.

At the request of the Beacon Journal, the attorney general released where the arsonists were living by county as of July 2 and a breakdown by sex.

The agency would not release ages. Nearly 190 of the 221 arsonists are men.

Meanwhile, 44 were in prison or jail. Many others were living in urban counties: Franklin (25), Cuyahoga (24), Summit (14) and Montgomery (14).

In other Akron-area counties, there were seven in Stark, two in Wayne and one in Medina.

There were none registered in 45 counties, including Portage.

Under the law, anyone convicted of an arson crime or who was in prison for arson at the time the law took effect has to register with his or her county sheriff.

Convicted arsonists are required to pay a $50 registration fee and a $25 annual fee after that to help maintain the registry.

Anyone who fails to register could be charged with a fifth-degree felony.

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