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Feb 6, 2013 11:15 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

County Legislature Approves Sex Offender Monitoring Plan, Trailers Will Close

Feb 6, 2013 11:43 AM

The Suffolk County Legislature unanimously approved a bill Tuesday evening that officials say will create the strongest sex offender monitoring program in the nation and will close the two trailers housing homeless sex offenders in Southampton Town.

Under the new law, dubbed the Community Protection Act, the homeless sex offenders will instead be placed at existing county homeless shelters at the discretion of the Suffolk County Department of Social Services commissioner, with no more than one offender per facility and offenders kept separate from families.

“This community protection plan is the solution,” said Laura Ahearn, the executive director of Parents for Megan’s Law, a not-for-profit that works to prevent sexual abuse. “It’s not perfect—and you can poke holes in anything—but it is the best in the nation.”

The bill passed with a vote of 17-0, with Presiding Officer William J. Lindsay absent, despite opposition from some legislators who said they opposed the rushed procedure by which it was brought to the floor—legislators received the final version at about 12:15 Tuesday afternoon.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone introduced the bill with a certificate of necessity attached, which allowed it to bypass the committee process. He argued that it warranted immediate consideration because the Suffolk County Police Department had developed such a comprehensive plan to protect the public. That also meant it needed 12 votes, a super majority, rather than the 10 normally required to pass.

“I resent that the county executive, having been here for 13 months, knowing that this issue was out there, would lay this upon the legislature and me in particular considering that I was away for a while. So I really haven’t had a chance to digest this,” Legislator Rick Montano of Islip said, before stating that he had changed positions and would vote in favor of the bill. Legislator DuWayne Gregory, who represents a portion of Babylon and Huntington towns, said he was previously concerned that the sex offenders would be clustered at shelters or motels in minority communities, although he said he had been assured by county officials that clustering of any sort will be avoided.

Mr. Bellone promised as part of his election campaign two years ago to close the trailers in Westhampton and Riverside that have housed all of the county’s roughly 40 homeless sex offenders since 2006. In 2010, the legislature approved a plan that called for the trailers to be closed and the construction of six new shelters that would be equally spread out across the county, with no more than six offenders residing in one place at one time. That plan was never funded.

“That was a slap on the face to us,” Flanders resident Carl Iacone said during the public hearing Tuesday afternoon, expressing frustration that the trailers were not rotated around the county as promised by former Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy.

“Grow some courage,” Brad Bender, president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association said to the legislators. “Don’t take the easy way out. Share the responsibility. We’ll take our share, but share the responsibility. It’s time.”

Riverhead Town Assessor Mason Haas pointed out that the Suffolk County residency restriction laws that limit where convicted sex offenders can live in proximity to schools, day care centers and playgrounds, are being challenged in federal court. He urged the legislators so support the bill in order to increase public safety in case those restrictions are struck down. Officials have blamed the restriction laws for forcing offenders into homelessness.

The Suffolk County Police Department, which developed the plan at the direction of Mr. Bellone, will work closely with Parents for Megan’s Law to monitor and spread information about the county’s roughly 1,000 registered sex offenders.

During a Suffolk County Public Safety Committee meeting last week, Suffolk County Police Chief James Burke heavily criticized the current trailer system.

“Clustering under the same roof just has to end—it’s bad public policy,” he said. “If I took 20 bank robbers and put them under the same roof at the end of the week, what would I come out with? Twenty better bank robbers.”

As part of the new program, the police department will sign a contract with Parents For Megan’s Law at a maximum cost of $900,000 each year for up to three years. Though it was unclear what the total cost of implementing the program will be, officials said it will cost significantly less to house sex offenders in existing shelters than the estimated $4 million it would cost to construct the mini-shelters.

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This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Toma Noku (616), uptown on Jan 31, 13 3:54 PM
Malone said "Its going to take the political will of an entire horseshoe" ??!!?!!!?? Say what? I don't know anything about political horseshoes but I have a pretty good idea where to find the horses azz.
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Feb 2, 13 6:24 AM
The "horseshoe" refers to the shape of the table that the legislators sit at.
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Feb 6, 13 12:54 AM
Under the new law, dubbed the Community Protection Act, the homeless sex offenders will instead be placed at one of the county’s existing shelters.

Oh boy sounds like Hidden Cove is getting some new tenants,

Maybe HHS can defend them as well now that they are closer to home.
By Undocumented Democrat (2065), southampton on Feb 5, 13 8:44 PM
1 member liked this comment
Is this solving the problem??? Perhaps we should locate these individuals
in a special care facility and housed in one place not in our communities.
By East Ender (64), Southampton on Feb 6, 13 1:47 AM
How about Plum Island??? All in one place!
By East Ender (64), Southampton on Feb 6, 13 8:50 AM
nah - they don't deserve to live in such a beautiful place. If I can't get clearance to go over there - they certainly shouldn't!
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Feb 6, 13 9:07 AM
I think the plum Island Idea is excellent, I would go one better, Take any repeat offender and put a bracelet on their ankle, Then give them a small hut with a few solar panels on the island. deliver seeds water and basic provisions from time to time and let them fend for themselves.They could raise chickens and livestock start there own little world, who cares. They would have proven they were not fit to live in our society so let them govern themselves for better or worse. But I guess the corrections ...more
By Undocumented Democrat (2065), southampton on Feb 6, 13 5:09 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By JoeLow, on Nov 2, 14 5:27 AM