LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Lawmakers in Arkansas say public safety is one of the top priorities this legislative session.
As of Monday, more and more legislators are signing off on a bill that would provide full disclosure on the sex offender registry in Arkansas when it comes to where exactly the highest-level sex offenders live.
HB1004 would amend the Sex Offender Registry Act to include the exact house, apartment, or unit number of level three and four sex offenders. The current law only requires the street name and block number.
Sponsor David Ray (R-District 40) said the Faulkner County Sheriff originally came to him pushing for this legislation. The bill is now endorsed by the Sheriff’s Association and Attorney General Tim Griffin.
Ray said sponsors and those endorsing the bill considered things like kids trick-or-treating on Halloween, or salespeople who go from door to door.
“Arkansas is one of only four states in the entire country and the only state in the southeast that doesn’t publish the full physical address,” Ray said.
Saline County Sheriff Rodney Wright fears this makes Arkansas an easy target for predators. He said he strongly supports the new legislation, which he hopes would better protect the state.
“Everyone wants to know where those high predatory offenders are, and I think we owe it to the citizens,” Wright said.
Despite the support most lawmakers have shown for the bill as it has made its way through the legislature, it is getting pushback from some.
Jan Sarna is a citizen who came to the committee meeting Monday to speak against it.
“Where is the verifiable proof of the danger that has been brought up in this bill,” he asked.
Sarna said people across the country have created a stigma around sex offenders, and he questions that most “dangerous offenders” would re-attack. He added that he thinks the bill is based on hysteria and fear.
“It is a bad idea to be a sex offender,” Sheriff Wright said. “If that offends them, I don’t care.”
The bill has passed through the House Judiciary Committee and House floor, and approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday. It will head to its final stop for approval Tuesday on the Senate floor before going to Governor Sanders to be signed.