Thirty-three registered sex offenders currently live within a mile radius of the Ohio Union, according to the Ohio Attorney General’s office.
Crimes range from gross sexual imposition, a tier I offense, to rape, a tier III offense. All of the offenders are male.
Ohio Law defines gross sexual imposition as sexual contact in which the offender purposely compels the victim to submit by force or threat of force, the offender impairs the judgment or control of the victim or knows the victim to be impaired, the victim is less than 13 years old, or the ability of the victim to resist or consent is impaired because of a mental or physical condition or advanced age.
Although the sex offender registry is under the jurisdiction of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, University Police does everything it can to keep students safe, said University Police Deputy Chief Richard Morman in an email.
“The Ohio State University Police Division works to aggressively deter crime as well as investigates any crime reported to the police division,” Morman said.
University Police offers a link to the Franklin County Sex Offender Registry on its website, free self-defense classes for women and safety tips for students, Morman said. It also runs the Student Safety Service, a public safety program that reports criminal activity and provides rides for students.
Some students are not surprised at the amount of sex offenders living in the campus area, but understand why University Police do not have a more active role in regulating the situation.
“Once you go off campus, that isn’t really their (University Police) place to do anything,” said Mei Jeung, a fourth-year in animal science. “You can’t really change the fact that the community around OSU isn’t the best.”
The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office does not patrol the University District, said Amanda Trump, executive assistant to Sheriff Zach Scott.
“Any regulations on sex offenders are through the parole or probation department from court orders and not through the Sheriff’s Office,” Trump said.
The Sheriff’s Office encourages “Stranger Danger” techniques to deter crime, such as not talking to strangers and using the buddy system when walking from place to place.
Offenders check in with the Adult Probation department of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas as often as the severity of their crimes require, said Gayle Dittmer, chief probation officer at the Court of Common Pleas.
“We conduct an assessment, and that assessment determines whether they’re on intensive supervision or basic supervision,” Dittmer said, “and if they’re on intensive supervision, depending on the charge, they may report in any time from once a week to twice a month.”
The Sheriff’s Office records addresses from offenders and ensures they are in accordance with a 2003 law, Dittmer said. Adult Probation follows through if offenders violate the law.
The 2003 law passed by the Ohio Senate states no sex offender may live within 1,000 feet of a school, day care center or any place “where children gather.”
“We don’t necessarily know where every school might be in the area, so that’s tracked by the Sheriff’s department,” Dittmer said.
Some students are wary of sex offenders living in their area but said recorded offenders have a right to live there.
“That person should have the choice to live wherever they want, so I don’t think that that should be regulated by the university,” said Annie Philabaum, a second-year in nursing who lives less than half a mile from Ohio Union. “But that is kind of scary.”
Philabaum searched her off-campus address in the sex offender registry before moving in, she said.
“I feel safe where I live, but just knowing that I walk around at night when it’s dark, and there are sex offenders around,” she said. “That’s definitely something to worry about.”
Programs like Buckeye Block Watch and Community Ambassadors are in place to keep off-campus students safe, said Dave Isaacs, an OSU Student Life spokesman, in an email.
Buckeye Block Watch is a community safety program for off-campus residents that encourages being proactive about preventing crime in neighborhoods, reporting suspicious behavior and educating students about different tactics to stay safe off-campus, including minimizing distractions and not walking alone, according to the program’s website.
Community Ambassadors are students who seek to build and develop the sense of community in the off-campus area.
A Community Ambassadors representative referred The Lantern to Isaacs for comment.