Eight arrested in sex offender sweep
BY NICOLE MARSHALL World Staff Writer
Monday, April 04, 2011
4/04/11 at 8:56 AM
In the second sweep of its kind in Tulsa, teams of law enforcement officers arrested eight convicted sex offenders on failure-to-register charges.
Members of the Tulsa Police Department's Exploitation Unit, the U.S. Marshals Service's Northern Oklahoma Violent Crimes Task Force and the Oklahoma Department of Corrections set out in March to find sex offenders who are in violation of sex-offender registration laws, police Sgt. John Adams said.
In addition to the eight arrests, 47 other sex offenders were located in other Oklahoma jurisdictions and out of state, Adams said. If an offender crossed state lines, agents are continuing to investigate whether charges are warranted under the federal Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act.
And the search for violators isn't over, Adams said.
"This is the second one that we have done, and we are planning on doing them about every quarter, give or take," Adams said.
Adams supervises the Exploitation Unit, which investigates missing-persons and runaway cases, coordinates Amber Alerts, and maintains sex- and violent-offender registrations. Last summer, the unit signed an agreement to work with the U.S. Marshals Service's task force.
Then in September, the agencies took part in their first sweep targeting sex offenders who are charged with failing to register. The sweep in March was the second such crackdown.
Oklahoma law requires convicted sex offenders to specify where they intend to live when they leave Department of Corrections custody. Then, if they don't register in that city or any other jurisdiction, they are considered "absconders."
Offenders who move to Oklahoma from other states are also required to register here.
Adams said it is difficult to track registered sex offenders under the current laws and that it can also be very difficult to get charges of failing to register filed against them.
"Right now, it is very difficult to get charges filed on the absconders because of having to prove jurisdiction," he said. "We physically have to locate the offender living at a location where they are not registered."
Adams said detectives have cases where the offenders have signed paperwork, such as Department of Human Services or property records, that indicate that they live in Tulsa, but police still cannot get charges filed against them.
They also have cases where there is evidence that an offender has repeatedly used a debit card in Tulsa or has been stopped by police and told the officers that he lives here, but it still is not enough evidence for a charge, he said.
Some of the offenders who are now classified as absconders have gone to a police station and tried to register but were told that they couldn't because their addresses were in "safe zones."
A law took effect in 2006 prohibiting sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of playgrounds, parks or child-care facilities. They were already prohibited from living within that distance of schools.
In Tulsa, that made more than 90 percent of the city a safe zone, meaning sex offenders couldn't legally live there. The restrictive residency laws have come under scrutiny because many sex offenders are no longer registering because they can't find a place to live legally.
"We have talked to legislators who say that they know it is a bad law, but they are not going to do anything about it," Adams said.
Proposed legislation: Tulsa police say pending legislation addressing sex offenders who live in mobile home parks will not affect the Tulsa area.
Last week, dozens of convicted sex offenders attended a legislative committee hearing to protest a bill they said will force them from their mobile home park in south Oklahoma City. The men who attended the meeting are residents of the Hand Up ministry, which houses more than 270 offenders in the mobile home park.
The bill states that mobile homes or trailers cannot be defined as multi-unit structures for purposes of sex-offender living restrictions.
The House Judiciary Committee approved the measure over the objections of some members who expressed concern that it would force the residents to become homeless.
Sex offenders still being sought
Police are looking for the following sex offenders who are considered "absconders" because they allegedly have not registered their addresses in Tulsa after notifying the Department of Corrections that they would live here.
Myron L. Woodfork: Original offense: rape/lewd molestation
James R. Williams: Original offense: second-degree rape
Michele Martinez: Original offense: child pornography - three counts
Cecil E. Martin: Original offense: sexual battery
Gregory Baglin: Original offense: lewd molestation
Anyone with information about any of these sex offenders can call Crime Stoppers at 596-COPS, send a text message to police or submit an online tip at tulsaworld.com/crimestoppers.
The Crime Commission offers rewards for information leading to arrests, and tipsters can be anonymous.
- Source: Tulsa Police Department
Nicole Marshall 918-581-8459