Governor Signs Arson Registry Bill

Written by – Carl Burnett Jr. –


COLUMBUS — Governor John Kasich signed legislation Thursday that would authorize the creation of a statewide arson registry.

The International Association of Fire Fighters Local 291, which represents Lancaster firefighters, proposed the idea a few years ago to Sen. Tim Schaffer, R-Lancaster, fire inspector Jason Coy said.

“It’s great to see it passed and signed into law,” Coy said. “I think this is going to be big help to arson investigators around the state once the registry is operating.”

The legislation creates a statewide registry of arsonists and would require them to register annually with the sheriff in the county where they live. That would apply to people convicted of arson in Ohio or elsewhere.

Ohio currently has no system for tracking convicted arsonists.

According to the State Fire Marshal, there were more than 8,500 arson fires in 2010 resulting in nearly 600 injuries to firefighters and civilians and more than $143 million in damages.

“I’m glad to see the legislation signed into law,” Schaffer said. “I have to give a lot of credit to Coy, Local 291, and the state firefighters association. If they hadn’t been persistent, we be looking at introducing this legislation again in January.”

Coy, an arson investigator with the Lancaster Fire Department, got the idea when he attended a national training seminar a couple of years ago during which registries were discussed.

Schaffer said when the issue was originally brought to him, he was surprised a registry of arsonists was not already available to investigators.

Under the final version, Senate Bill 70 requires offenders to register with the sheriff’s offices annually throughout the state and the registry will be maintained by the Bureau of Criminal Investigation in the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

“This makes it another tool for our investigations,” Coy said.

Schaffer said the problem with making the list public was the cost and administrative requirements associated with making it a public list.

“It would have cost an additional $500,000 to make the list a public document,” Schaffer said. “We wanted to get the registry up and running so it could help law enforcement.”

Under the final version, the registry will be available to the Fire Marshal’s office, state and local law enforcement officers, and to any firefighter who is authorized by the chief of the agency the firefighters serves to review the record.

Under the law the registry is not a public record under the state’s Public Records Law.

“As an arson investigator, we can often find out where and how a fire was started,” Coy said. “It’s finding out who did it that can be the really difficult part. The registry will provide us with a list of the people who are convicted arsonists in the area, and as the list grows in the future, I think it will be very helpful to us when we are investigating arsons.”

Registration fees would fund the registry.

Convicted arsonists would pay $50 initially and $25 each year.

Under the legislation, convicted arsonists who fail to register would be guilty of a fifth-degree felony, which carries a possible one-year prison sentence and a $2,500 fine.

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