The Assembly Republican Sex Offender Watch Task Force held the second in a series of meetings last week at the Merrick Public Library. The task force will travel throughout the state, seeking solutions to the problems that exist when sex offenders move into communities. Issues to be discussed include residency restrictions, limitations on the whereabouts of sex offenders and sexual predator monitoring.
"It has become evident that sex offenders living among us present a great problem," said task force co-Chair Assemblyman David G. McDonough (R, C, I-Merrick). "Another problem is finding solutions that work statewide. Hopefully, we can find out what works locally and what we can do to help communities that are trying to address their sex offender issues."
As it currently stands, there are very few restrictions on where sex offenders can live or travel. Also, many local governments have grown restless over the inaction that has taken place at the state level, enacting their own legislation dealing with restricting sex offenders. Just on Long Island alone, the villages of East Rockaway and Mineola and the City of Long Beach have passed their own sex offender legislation, limiting where these criminals may reside.
"The presence of sex offenders in our neighborhoods has become a major issue," said Assemblyman Mike Spano (R, I, C-Yonkers), task force co-chair. "With approximately 160 registered sex offenders living in my hometown of Yonkers, it is imperative that state and local governments work together toward solutions that will keep families safe. I look forward to gathering ideas from these forums so we can take the fight back to Albany and pass meaningful legislation."
"With the passage of the civil confinement bill this year, the state took a huge step in the right direction toward protecting our families from known predators," added Assemblyman James Conte (R, C, I, WF-Huntington Station), task force member. "However, we can go even further by preventing sex offenders from living near schools or day care centers."
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice; Laura Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan's Law; and Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco were joined by representatives from Child Abuse Prevention Services (CAPS), Coalition Against Child Abuse and Neglect, Victims Information Bureau of Suffolk (VIBS), the Nassau County Police Department and five local school districts. The attendees discussed their views on what can be done about sex offenders living on Long Island. Most agreed that a blanket statewide policy would not be effective and local action is often the best solution.
"This is exactly the type of discussion that we need to have, both on Long Island and throughout New York State," said Assemblyman Tom McKevitt (R, C, I-East Meadow). "As your elected officials, we will continue to fight in Albany for solutions that can be applied locally, as well as statewide, to ensure that our families are safe."
"All across the state, communities are standing up to sex offenders by limiting where they can live and tightening restrictions on their parole," said task force member Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. (R, I, C-Sag Harbor). "I commend those communities, but I also know that others are struggling with the problem of sex offenders moving in and have tried to pass legislation, but have been unsuccessful. These forums are designed to help those municipalities find out what works so they can implement their own solutions."
Future roundtable discussions will be held over the next two years in Suffolk County, the Hudson Valley, Staten Island, the Capital Region, Western New York, Central New York and the North Country.