CONCERNS EXPRESSED OVER SEX OFFENDER LAW
Local lawmakers may have to take a second look at a groundbreaking law that would restrict convicted child sex offenders from living near parks, schools and day care center in the town of Huntington. Originally proposed in August by Huntington Town Councilman Mark Capodanno and co-sponsored by Councilwoman Marlene Budd, the law would be the first on Long Island to prohibit all sex offenders who are required to register with the state under Megan's Law from taking up residency 1,000 feet from a school yard or day care center or 500 feet from a park. Laura Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan's Law, supports the bill and has consulted with the town during the drafting of the law. May advocates believe it is an improvement from what is currently on the books. Several concerns, however, were raised during the meeting, ranging form the town's legal liability and enforcement capabilities to the screening process and overall effectiveness of the law.
I love the fact that you're addressing the situation, but I don't think you're addressing it correctly, said Kim Talman, an East Northport resident and New York State chairperson for the National Association to Protect Children, at the September 27 town board meeting, adding that major revisions should be made. It's just a feel-good effort, it's not going to find who they need to find, she said. She stated that she found several holes in the resolution, specifically regarding the plan for mandatory screenings of town employees. She feels the town should include a criminal background check on all prospective town employees. The sex offender registry is an honor system. It's up to the offender themselves to register their address, Talman said. She also said that certain sexual abuse charges can be plea-bargained down to non-sexual offenses, making it even harder to track sexual offenders. This is a sex offender residency restriction law, I don't believe that belongs in this type of law, Ahearn said about whether criminal background checks should be included in the resolution. I worked very closely with Laura Ahearn to make this as restrictive as constitutionally possible, Legislator Jon Cooper (D-Huntington) said of his proposal, which would impose a one-quarter-mile residential restriction regarding schools, registered day care centers and playgrounds. It's a real and growing problem. We can't stop sex offenders from living in the county, but we can certainly put up restrictions that are fair.
Ahearn believes this law, because it has been passed in other parts of the country, is a step in the right direction, and that she, too, does not want to create a false sense of security with this law. We always want parents to be aware that there are lots of tools, and this is one way to reduce the potential for child sex abuse from happening, she said. The crimes of sex offenders leave lifelong, devastating effects on the victim. We know it only serves to reduce the potential of this happening, but this law will ultimately serve to protect citizens better.