In an effort to help solve more cases of arson, deter repeat offenders, and prevent deaths and property damage, Ohio has decided to join the few states in the United States that require convicted arsonists to register with authorities.
The new law will require those convicted of arson-related offenses to register each year with their local sheriffs for at least 10 years after they are released from prison, or if not imprisoned, sentenced. The law will apply whether the offenders were convicted in Ohio, or elsewhere, but does not cover those who have already completed their sentences.
Other U.S. states that keep arson registries include California, Louisiana, and Montana. Lawmakers in Texas and Washington state have made unsuccessful attempts to create arson registries. Congress has also attempted it. Legislation to start a national arson registry was approved by the U.S. House in 2007, and again in 2009, but it did not pass the Senate.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed the measure into law in late December. It will not take effect until July 1. This delay in implementation will give the Ohio attorney general's office more time to deal with the logistics of incorporating the registry into the information network used by the state's law-enforcement agencies.
The operation of the registry will be funded through registration fees.
Ohio reported more than 8,000 arsons each year from 2007 to 2011. This figure includes fires whose causes remain under investigation or undetermined. These fires are associated with more than 450 deaths, more than 3,000 injuries to first responders and civilians, and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage, according to the fire marshall's office.