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Jan 6, 2009 9:29 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Forum's focus will be on homeless sex offender trailers

Jan 6, 2009 9:29 AM

Three concerned citizens are busy organizing a forum, which will be held next Thursday, January 15, and feature an assortment of state, county and town government officials, to address what they describe as an unfair burden for those living near the Suffolk County Jail in Riverside.

The issue, they say, has to do with Suffolk County’s decision to temporarily house nearly all of its homeless sex offenders in a trailer placed on the grounds of the county jail. A second trailer, one designed to handle overflow from the first unit, is located off Old Country Road in Westhampton.

The forum itself will take place in the Riverhead High School auditorium, located on Harrison Avenue in Riverhead, and will begin at 7 p.m. The event is being organized by Michael Brewer, president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association (FRNCA), Mason Haas, a Riverhead resident, and Andrea Spilka, president of the Southampton Town Civic Coalition.

The trio is advocating the placement of more trailers for homeless sex offenders across Suffolk County, rather than the current set-up in which both trailers are in Southampton Town. Representatives from the county agency that oversees the trailer—the Department of Social Services—will attend the forum, Mr. Brewer said.

In September, a trailer that provides temporary shelter for as many as 20 homeless sex offenders at one time replaced a smaller trailer, which held around 10 offenders, at the Riverside location. The placement of the larger trailer at the site, and the county’s refusal to place additional trailers at other western locations, has upset those living in Flanders, Riverside and Riverhead Town.

The new, larger trailer brought the issue to the forefront of public awareness, Mr. Brewer said, and pushed the group to organize next week’s forum. The event will be attended by State Assemblymen Fred Thiele Jr. and Marc Alessi, as well as Suffolk County Legislators Ed Romaine and Jay Schneiderman.

The Department of Social Services has previously explained that the sex offenders who stay at the trailer overnight must sign an agreement stating they will not leave the trailer. As part of the same agreement, the offenders are transported via taxi at 7:30 a.m. each morning to their respective hometowns. County officials argue that this practice prevents the sex offenders from roaming the streets surrounding the trailer.

However, both Mr. Brewer and Mr. Haas think that the trailer serves as a “magnet” that not only attracts sex offenders to Southampton and Riverhead towns, but encourages them to stay here as well.

“If they know they’re staying at the trailer, they’ll go there,” Mr. Brewer said, suggesting that many of the sex offenders staying at the trailer might opt to spend time in downtown Riverhead, which is near schools, playgrounds and a library, instead of going home.

FRNCA members and local residents staged a rally outside the Suffolk County Complex in Riverhead in 2007, following the county’s placement of the trailers in Westhampton and Riverside. However, Mr. Brewer and Mr. Haas explained that next week’s forum will be different in that they hope to establish better lines of communication with the county, and specifically with its Department of Social Services. Mr. Haas described the upcoming forum as a “work session” of sorts.

“We should share the burden,” Mr. Brewer said about the idea of placing trailers across Suffolk County. “It’s the most fair and equitable way to disburse sex offenders,” he added, noting that the county has plenty of vacant land in Yaphank to accommodate the trailers.

Ryan Horn, a spokesman for Southampton Town, confirmed this week that Town Supervisor Linda Kabot will attend the forum to discuss the actions her municipality has taken to address the situation.

“We don’t want Southampton Town to be the only repository for sex offenders, particularly if the sex offenders are not from Southampton,” Mr. Horn said.

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The question that should be asked is; Why are these sex offenders having trouble finding a place to live? Is this problem a result of residency laws placed on sex offenders? If so have anyone in the making of these residency laws read any of the studyes on residency laws? If they have read them they would find that residency laws do not protect any one. They may even make the public at more of a risk, in that they cause released sex offenders to move away from the suport sytem that will help ...more
By TimP (4), New Haven on Jan 8, 09 1:43 PM
Well I think being able to keep an eye on them is a good thing. But I do understand not wanting them in my neighborhood so I can sympathise
By Madison (1), Mastic Beach on Jan 8, 09 6:00 PM
i dont understand. if they are still a danger to society then why arent they locked up?

and in any case why is the government giving them free cab rides and housing? i'd love if i could get the government to pay for a cab to come pick me up each day. can i qualify for this service or must i be a sex offender?

wouldnt it be better if we sent them to some rehab half-way house rather than taxi-ing them around long island being homeless?
By nicole (96), Hampton Bays on Jan 16, 09 2:49 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Marjun, Philippines on May 5, 09 11:23 AM