Bellone: New sex offender housing policy

The two trailers that house Suffolk County's homeless sex offenders will be moved out of Southampton Town by the end of the year, ending a five-year battle between the town and county.

At a news conference Thursday in Southampton Town Hall, County Executive Steve Bellone said the responsibility for housing homeless sex offenders must be spread throughout the county.

"Southampton has borne an unfair burden as a result of a terrible public policy," Bellone said, referring to the previous administration's plan.

Federal law requires the county to provide housing for homeless sex offenders released from state prison.

The department of social services under the administration of former County Executive Steve Levy placed the trailers -- one that has been in Riverside at the county jail since 2007, and the other in Westhampton for the past two years -- within the town's borders. The trailers will be gone by the end of the year, and five or six "mini-shelters" will be either built or housed within existing buildings in nonresidential areas.

There are about 20 sex offenders in the Riverside location and eight in the Westhampton facility, officials said. Bellone said none of the mini-shelters would have more than six or seven sex offenders at a time. He added that planning is in the early stages and that no decision was made on what towns would house the new shelters.

Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said the town would do its part to provide shelter, but noted that "there are two trailers and those two trailers have resided in the Town of Southampton, and only in the Town of Southampton."

In the next few weeks, the Westhampton facility, which is near a residential development for seniors, will be moved 1,700 feet away from its existing spot to an area behind a police training facility. Another fence will be erected and security will be increased.

Legis. Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) introduced legislation in March 2011 to build the mini-shelters. Levy vetoed it but the legislature overrode the veto. However, the law was never implemented.

Bellone noted Thursday that he wants to overhaul the county's policy, including better tracking of sex offenders, whether they're homeless or not, to better protect citizens. He said doing so is a "top priority" and "the core of what we are supposed to do as a government: to protect kids, to protect families."

And despite the county's $500 million fiscal deficit, Bellone said "if this costs more, so be it."

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