WALSH TO TACKLE SEX OFFENDER OVERSATURATION?
Brookhaven Third District Councilwoman Kathy Walsh is working with Parents for Megan's law to draft a law in an attempt to restrict the number of sex offenders who can live in a residential home. Walsh is aiming to create a resolution that would change Brookhaven Town's zoning laws so that only one convicted registered sex offender would be allowed to live in a residential house. Every one of us has an expectation as to our quality of life and the safety of our kids, yet we're being confronted with landlords who have absolutely no investment in child safety, who exploit our communities by renting multiple rooms in residential homes and apartments to registered sex offenders, explained Laura Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan's Law. Although we would like to, we cannot legislate or rely upon certain landlords to put the safety of our most vulnerable, our children, in front of them making a quick dollar at the expense of our community. We encourage landlords to follow in the steps of Mark Broxmeyer, owner of Fairfield Properties, Long Island's largest group of apartment complexes, and conduct criminal background checks on all potential renters. We know that isn't going to happen voluntarily, so we have to take action now, to prevent further oversaturation and clustering of convicted sex offenders in certain communities. For a number of years, Parents for Megan's Law has been working with federal, state and county lawmakers to find jurisdiction to prevent certain landlords from continuing to unduly overburden communities with registered sex offenders, according to Ahearn. While many initiatives have been discussed, none could be implemented because the solution cannot be found in county, state or federal law, but in town zoning laws. And if towns can zone an area residential or commercial, they should be able to change the zoning so that only one convicted registered sex offender can live in any one home. This is our most viable proposal so far. Ahearn asserts that a law like this would completely change communities such as Gordon Heights, which has the highest percentage of registered sex offenders in Suffolk County. Because of all the lower-cost housing options available there, sex offenders have clustered in that neighborhood. There are 65 registered sex offenders in the [Coram part of the] Gordon Heights area. When young children are getting off their school buses, they are walking alone past houses with convicted sex offenders in them, some sex offenders even standing outside the homes, watching the children walking by. It's like these children are living in a prison. This clustering and oversaturation creates angst in communities such as Gordon Heights and Mastic/Shirley, Ahearn explained. If Walsh's resolution, which has not even been written yet, passes, there would be a grandfather clause to ensure that multiple offenders who are already living in one home would not be forced out. But Ahearn said that, even with this clause, the number of sex offenders clustered in one area would dramatically decrease within one year because they tend to relocate frequently, and once they relocate, they'd only be allowed to be one in a home. Urging the public to contact the town council representatives about supporting this zoning change, Ahearn said that residency restrictions are needed unless the area is highly industrial, with no children playing in the streets. We're not trying to put landlords out of business, but we don't want them endangering the community and oversaturating the area. Ahearn also warns that just because parents may know the whereabouts of registered offenders, this does not mean their children are immune to sexual victimization. Something has to be done, Ahearn said about the oversaturation of sex offenders. We're counting on Kathy Walsh and the town to be proactive here. Hopefully Brookhaven can get this resolution passed and then other towns can follow suit. For information on Parents for Megan's Law, call 689-2672 or visit www.parentsformeganslaw.com.