PROTEST OVER SEX OFFENDER HOUSING
School, town and civic leaders, most carrying placards saying Share the Burden, protested at the Suffolk legislature yesterday that trailers housing homeless sex offenders have been on the East End long enough and need to be moved elsewhere. Two mobile units have been in the same place since the program started in February rather than move on a monthly basis as promised. One is located on county jail property in Riverhead and the other is at the police firing range in Westhampton. More than 50 residents said the homeless located on jail property spend time in the downtown area, including the library, endangering both children and the elderly. Roland Hampson, a county social services spokesman, called the Riverhead location, with its 24-hour-a-day security, barbed wire fencing and curfews for homeless clients above and beyond the best site the county has found so far. Despite the protests, the legislature, in a 10-8 party-line vote, defeated a resolution by Legis. Edward Romaine (R-Center Moriches) that would have barred housing predators from living within a quarter-mile of a library. The Riverhead Library is just across the Peconic River from the jail property. The vote came after victim-rights advocate Laura Ahearn said expanding existing restrictions beyond schools and parks might make the law vulnerable to challenge as exclusionary. Romaine countered that the county has only 56 libraries, but nearly 1,000 parks and 1,000 schools. There's nothing exclusionary in my resolution, he said.