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Oklahoma Sex Offender Laws Cause Confusion

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Law enforcement officials say the uncertainty means offenders could be living right next-door to schools or parks. Law enforcement officials say the uncertainty means offenders could be living right next-door to schools or parks.
NORMAN, Oklahoma -

Sex offender laws in Oklahoma are causing confusion over where violators can and cannot live. Law enforcement officials say the uncertainty means offenders could be living right next-door to schools or parks.

Within Norman proper, police say it is nearly impossible for sex offenders to find homes more than 2,000 feet away from schools and parks. Norman resident Margaret Gaida takes her children to a central Norman park nearly every day but never really wonders who might be living nearby.

"I think, unless you take it upon yourself to be informed, we wouldn't know," Gaida said.

The confusion is over a grandfather clause -- that depending on who you ask, may or may not allow offenders to live near schools and parks.

"The Department of Corrections has a slightly different take on the law," Norman Police Capt. Tom Easley said.

Easley says the Department of Corrections' take is meant to keep offenders away from popular areas for children, no matter what.

"It's just a matter of interpretation," said Easley. "Within the … urban area of Norman, it is extraordinarily difficult to find an area not within 2,000 feet of a school or park."

For the most part throughout the state, offenders are allowed to stay in their homes as long as they owned the property prior to being convicted. Prosecutors say action can be taken on a civil level in an attempt to remove offenders.

"You get into property issues and the state violating homestead exemptions and things like that," Easley said.

Since district attorneys are responsible for prosecution, Easley says the buck stops with them as well as the attorney general. That is unless lawmakers pass more direct legislation.

In Norman, records show more sex offenders live near Lake Thunderbird State Park than any other park.

To find sex offenders near you, click here.

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