Ohio is starting to keep a closer eye on convicted arsonists.

Under a state law that takes effect Monday, anyone convicted of an arson crime after July 1 or now incarcerated for one is required to register annually with the county sheriff where they live.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office will maintain a central database containing the names, addresses, photos and other personal information on fire-setters.

That registry, unlike a similar database for sex offenders, will be available only to law enforcement officials and not the public.

Ohio joins other states, such as California and Montana, with a statewide registry.

“It’s a good thing,” Barberton fire Capt. Richard Hardgrove said. “It will help us do our job better when we look at these fires.”

He said it might help authorities more quickly identify a potential suspect.

Arson is a major problem in Ohio. The FBI reported there were 2,850 arson incidents in the state in 2010, the Ohio Legislative Service Commission said.

It’s unclear how many convicted arsonists live in Ohio. There are about 300 men and women serving time in state prisons for aggravated arson, attempted aggravated arson or arson.

Those prisoners must register upon their release.

Jill Del Greco, a spokeswoman for the state attorney general, said people convicted of any arson-related crime are required to register — even if they plead to a lesser offense.

She also noted that once people are listed, their name remains on the registry for life unless a court determines otherwise.

“The registration never expires,” Del Greco said.

Convicted arsonists are required to pay a $50 registration fee and a $25 annual fee after that to help maintain the statewide registry. Anyone who fails to register could be charged with a fifth-degree felony.

In Summit County, convicted arsonists must register at the county jail in Akron.

Sheriff’s spokesman Bill Holland said the sheriff’s office will collect the data but called the process another unfunded mandate passed onto counties.

Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or rarmon@thebeaconjournal.com.