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Deadline Attached To State Law Sends Sex Offenders Back To Streets

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Hand-Up Ministries, a sex offender compound in south Oklahoma City, is forced to turn offenders back to the streets. Hand-Up Ministries, a sex offender compound in south Oklahoma City, is forced to turn offenders back to the streets.
OKLAHOMA CITY -

Hand-Up Ministries, a sex offender compound in south Oklahoma City, is forced to turn offenders back to the streets. The deadline set by a new state law led to tents being removed from the ministry's property on Friday.

Now News 9 is uncovering one of several tent cities in the metro where offenders are trying to stay below the radar.

At last check, nearly a 1,000 sex offenders, including some high-risk offenders, were not registered with the state and the director of Hand-Up Ministries says because of the new law, more could slip into hiding.

"It's a big, big problem," Hand Up Ministries closed the tent camp for sex offenders but the director David Nichols says Oklahoma is not out of the woods yet.

"This is the good life," while standing amongst the trash and tents set up in a heavily wooded area of Oklahoma City, Nichols lets his sarcasm help illustrate his frustration.

As founder of Hand-Up Ministries, Nichols says he's done everything imaginable to prevent sex offenders from living in hiding.

 7/2/12 Related Story: New Oklahoma Law Forcing Sex Offenders Into Tents Raises Concerns

"This is where politicians want them to be and they don't care if [sex offenders] have a place to live in," Nichols said.

The tent city, although the location is not disclosed, is in a green zone. Nichols says it's one of only a few places offenders can stay and not violate the states restriction of living 2000 feet of daycare, school, or church and most recently, restricted from living together in the same dwelling.

"We were doing something about it at no cost to the taxpayer and now we don't have that option," said Nichols.

Since the new law went into effect in July and forced nearly 100 offenders to leave the ministry, 66 of them have failed to register and 11 registered with a bogus address claiming to still live at Hand-Up Ministries.

 6/29/2012 Related Story: New Law Forces OKC Sex Offenders To The Streets

"They are probably living in an area where they are not supposed to be living so they just don't register," Nichols said.

Nichols says other offenders are listed as homeless, but live in the tent cities undetected by police.

Also in the tent city, News 9 found a lot of evidence of drugs and alcohol being used. The substances are restricted for residents at Hand-Up Ministries because it can contribute to them reoffending.

"They want to claim they're better off not living together at our place. I don't know why they think two of them are not going to get together living like this. It's stupid," said Nichols.

Under state law, sex offenders who register as homeless are required to check in with the state once a week.

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