TEMP SHELTER DEBATED FOR HOMELESS SEX OFFENDERS
Local communities are still fighting attempts to place convicted sex offenders who currently have no place to live in unmarked trailers on county property. The most recent move to put one of these trailers on the jail property in Riverhead has raised the ire of some government officials. Suffolk County is obliged under New York State law to house the homeless. According to state law, sex offenders have 10 days to report a change of residency to local authorities, so that the neighborhood can be informed. Some community leaders and elected officials are worried that sex offenders who are being temporarily housed at these trailers are not reporting to authorities. That 10-day loophole is the major problem with a situation like this, said Laura Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan's Law. However, she noted that a federal law recently was passed to reduce that time from 10 days to three days. There's nothing stopping state lawmakers from making that change right now, it's their responsibility, she said. Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman (R-Sag Harbor), who expressed frustration that the trailer has been sitting at the Westhampton site for over two months, has introduced legislation that could move the trailer off the property permanently. His law would prohibit registered sex offenders from residing within a quarter-mile of a senior facility, such as a nursing home or a senior condominium complex like the one in Westhampton. However, Ahearn express reservations about Schneiderman's proposal. I've never seen senior citizen homes included in residency restriction laws, she said. I understand the thinking behind it, but the challenge is, you have to prove that the elderly, who are in secure facilities, are just as vulnerable as children walking home from school by themselves...It comes to a point where you're legislating exclusionary zones, and sex offenders will have nowhere to live in the county, and the law will be overturned. Ahearn also noted that she supports the county's latest initiative, calling it a good solution to the situation. The tremendous advantage the community has here is that the county is providing additional supervision, she said.