Two men are challenging a new Suffolk County law that intensifies monitoring of sex offenders by teaming police with a private advocacy group.
Troy Wallace and Carlos Perez, both registered sex offenders, recently filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Central Islip against County Executive Steve Bellone, police Chief of Department James Burke and Laura Ahearn, who heads Parents for Megan's Law, the nonprofit that will receive $2.3 million over the next three years under Suffolk's new law.
The plaintiffs allege that the Community Protection Act -- which was passed unanimously by the county Legislature on Feb. 5 and became effective March 27 -- violates their civil rights by authorizing police and Ahearn's group to develop sex offender "watch lists" without reason to believe they're violating their registration terms.
County leaders have said that the police department, with help from retired law enforcement officers working for Ahearn, will conduct regular checks on registered sex offenders to ensure they're reporting correct addresses. The law also authorizes Parents for Megan's Law to monitor offenders' online activity on the county's behalf and to develop tools for citizens to report violations.
"They're creating these trackers to watch us as if we're currently demonstrating criminal behavior," said Wallace, 42, who resides in Suffolk's East End trailers for homeless sex offenders, which will soon be closed as part of the new law.
Vanessa Baird-Streeter, a county spokeswoman, did not comment on the suit. Ahearn didn't return a call Friday.
The most controversial aspect of the Community Protection Act had been relocation of about 40 homeless male sex offenders now living in the Riverside and Westhampton trailers.
Bellone argued for emergency approval of the law, bypassing legislative committees, because he said it was urgent to treat all 1,016 county sex offenders equally, instead of devoting the majority of time and money to the 4 percent who are homeless. But relocation of the homeless offenders to shelters around Suffolk has yet to start.