Local Police Departments are required by law to notify vulnerable populations about Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders residing in their vicinities.
According to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, upon release into the community following a conviction for a registerable offense, a sex offender is required to register with the Division of Criminal Justice Services. In order to determine the level of community notification and duration of registration, a hearing is held by the sentencing court. After examining the facts in a particular case, including the use of force, weapons, alcohol or drugs, victim's age, number of victims, assault or injury of the victim and relationship to the victim, the court makes a determination regarding the offender's level of notification, commonly called the risk level.
In December, the Nassau County Police Department released a notification that a level three convicted sex offender was residing at Jericho's Meadowbrook Motel located at 440 Jericho Turnpike.
Shortly after, a second notification was released regarding an additional level three sex offender residing at the same location. Both offenders were noted to have a history of convictions for sexual offenses against children. A level three sex offender, who was residing in Jericho, is deemed as a high risk of repeat offense and also a threat to public safety.
Alarm and concern rapidly spread through the Jericho and Syosset communities in light of the close proximity of the Motel to the East Birchwood and Jericho Manor's neighborhoods, as well as to the local Robbins Lane and Jackson Elementary Schools, the Jericho Public Library, and the Merry Lane Park.
The Birchwood Civic Association (BCA), which represents the approximately 1,200 families of the East Birchwood and Jericho Manors communities, immediately took action.
"We view the safety of our children as our highest priority and we immediately instituted a multi-pronged campaign to safeguard our community," said Craig Snyder, Birchwood Civic Association President.
A BCA task force was commissioned and an extensive investigation and campaign was initiated.
According to the BCA's investigation, significant compliance issues existed with regard to the proximity of the motel to local institutions.
Further research confirmed that this issue is being confronted by many communities. According to Birchwood Civic Association Safety Chairperson Roy Chipkin, the issue is complicated by inadequate local laws, including the applicable Nassau County Local Law No. 12-2008 ordinance, which only mandates that sex offenders are forbidden from residing within 1000 feet of a school or 500 feet of a playground. "This distance is clearly inadequate to properly safeguard the community," Chipkin said.
Within a two-week period, the BCA announced the relocation of the level three convicted sex offenders from the community. At the same time the motel was declared off limits by the county for future convicted sex offender occupancy because of its proximity to the county's Jericho preserve located adjacent to the property.
Nassau County Legislator Judy Jacobs answered the residents' calls for help on the county level, and was instrumental in working with the applicable county agencies toward the effort to have the motel declared off limits for future housing.
"Working with a group such as the BCA on such an important issue was gratifying and I am pleased that common sense did prevail," said Jacobs.
Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto also worked quickly with his staff to apply the town's resources toward the relocation of the individuals.
"This is a perfect example that when local government and local residents work together for the good of the community, good things happen," said Venditto. "The residents were our eyes and ears on this one."
Although relieved with the positive outcome and appreciative of the advocacy of the offices of both the Town Supervisor and Legislator Jacobs, the BCA's President Craig Snyder cautioned that moving forward, "we must work to strengthen the applicable laws and remain vigilant in our efforts to protect our families as well as our quality of life."
The BCA invites all those who are interested in staying informed to visit their website at www.eastbirchwood.org.