- In 2013, Ohio lawmakers passed Section 2909.15 of the Ohio Revised code, creating the statewide arson registry.
- There are currently 1,377 individuals registered as arson offenders.
- Fire officials and investigators say the registry is a valuable tool.
- Other experts argue the database is ineffective and unconstitutional.
Shawndra Brown decided to set a car on fire following a domestic dispute.
That was in 2013. As part of her sentence, the 35-year-old Columbus resident was required to register once a year, every year, as an arson offender — her name becoming one of the first to appear on Ohio’s arson registry database.
“I can’t say it’s unfair because we did commit a crime,” Brown said. “I just think the terms of it can be a bit excessive.”
As Ohio’s arson registry turns 10 years old, the debate continues over whether it’s an effective program or it violates constitutional rights, a question that is now pending before the Ohio Supreme Court. The state launched the registry in July 2013 as a tool for arson investigators, modeling the program after a similar database for sex offenders. The assumption was 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. Today, there are 1,377 individuals registered as arson offenders in the state. But it’s unclear how many of those are repeat offenders, as the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, which maintains the statewide database, says it doesn’t keep track of whether those on the registry are arrested again.