Written by Cory Twibell Friday, 10 December 2010 00:00
On Nov. 30, parents and residents from the Carle Place community had questions answered and concerns addressed at a sex offender meeting that featured experienced officials in the field from New York State and Nassau County.
Nassau County Legislator Richard Nicolello, who described the situation as a “clear and present danger to the community,” hosted the two-hour session in the Carle Place High School Auditorium.
The panel on stage consisted of members from the Nassau County Police Department, New York State Department of Social Services, NYS Division of Parole and NYS Office of Probation.
Nicolello first addressed the audience and panel regarding the sudden spike in sex offenders in the area, why the community wasn’t notified immediately, how much money offenders are given to stay in local housing and how many were present in the community at the time of the meeting.
The panel responded with saying they “were not going to take chances with public safety,” and then offered the most current statistics of sex offenders in Nassau County.
As of Nov. 30, there were 304 sex offenders on probation living in Nassau County, three of which reside in Carle Place. Of the 304, 180 are registered, and less than one-third are Level 2 or 3, with 3 being the highest-level offender. Fourty-five offenders are currently monitored with electronic GPS body devices, said a speaker. The panel also noted that 90 percent of offenders knew their victims prior to committing any crimes.
“These are not ‘shark attacks,’ it’s friends who will offend,” said one panel member.
Of the total number of sex offenders in the county, approximately 14-18 at a given time are homeless, although it is New York State law to provide temporary housing and shelter, according to one speaker.
A temporary assistance stay can last no more than 28 days in one location, said a member of the panel, and assistance of this nature can last up to five years if necessary. No more than two sex offenders are permitted to stay in one location, said a speaker, but aliases and other guises sometimes make it difficult to track all past offenders.
The panel noted that the number of available housing locations is dwindling, and coinciding with the rate at which hotels and motels charge, it is difficult for social services to find appropriate housing. A speaker from social services explained costs vary from $70 to $160 per night at hotels, and that their agency does not set rates but is obligated to pay the fee.
While one resident said the system has “failed,” many in the audience and on the panel subsequently concurred when a suggestion of switching to a voucher system rather than a cash system was made.
“The current system handcuffs all departments of social services,” said one spokesperson.
While the audience posed many questions with no “cut and dry” answers, the panel was still able to shed light on many sensitive issues, such as the recent situation of sex offenders staying at the Carle Place Holiday Inn.
The panel explained that the Holiday Inn, under the old policy, fell within the range of acceptable places in which sex offenders could stay. The current policy, which uses a radius measurement system instead of a straight-line method, makes the Holiday Inn unsuitable for housing sex offenders, given its proximity to Charles Fuschillo Park and other areas with high volumes of children at a given time.
A spokesperson from the Holiday Inn said it was “very difficult to distinguish who is transient and who is not,” as the hotel normally accepts anyone with a valid driver’s license and sufficient cash for his or her stay.
One parent said it was “scary” for him to find out that a sex offender had been living in the Holiday Inn, which he said was virtually in his own backyard. Many in the audience said that they were notified of the situation after the offender had left.
“It’s great that letters go out, but it’s after the fact,” said one parent.
The director of social services replied, “There is no perfect way to watch everyone and declare everything. We’re not experts, we’re people mandated to follow the law within a certain capacity. We welcome community dialogue and we’re here to learn as well.”
Nicolello and members of the panel said they hope to hold another meeting in the near future to update the community on all the suggestions and comments from the Nov. 30 meeting. Nicolello also urged parents to sign up for an email notification list informing them when sex offenders move into the community.
The Parents for Megan’s Law Email Alert Registry address is http://www. parentsformeganslaw.org/pfml/preregistrationdisplay.do and the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services site is http://criminaljustice. state. ny.us/nsor/nyalert.htm.