Dozens of registered sex offenders living in Suffolk County provided inaccurate addresses in the year since county lawmakers passed a law to intensify monitoring of the ex-convicts, and more than 140 others were found to have violated rules requiring them to update their photos on a state registry.
Laura Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan's Law, contracted by the county last year to monitor more than 900 registered sex offenders, told lawmakers Thursday that the increased scrutiny has led to an increase in arrests for violating state reporting requirements.
"It's not necessarily about arrests and convictions. It's about ensuring that this [sex-offender] registry is what it's supposed to be," Ahearn said. "It's supposed to be a tool for the community to use to protect themselves and their children."
Last year's Community Protection Act, which was backed by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, provided Ahearn's group with $2.7 million over three years to track sex offenders in the county and create community awareness programs. The law also shut down controversial trailers that Suffolk had used to house more than 30 homeless sex offenders on the East End.
Offenders were placed in county homeless shelters instead.
As of this February, there were 1,005 registered sex offenders in Suffolk, according to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice.
Parents for Megan's Law has hired seven investigators -- all retired law enforcement officers -- who verify home and work addresses. The investigators also monitor social media to determine if registered offenders have set up unauthorized accounts. Under state law, offenders must register email addresses and any social media accounts.
Ahearn said to date the group has forwarded 182 tips to Suffolk police for offenders who were in possible violation of Internet regulations.
Suffolk Police Chief of Detectives William Madigan told lawmakers that the tips forwarded by the nonprofit have led to an increase in arrests of registered offenders who have violated state reporting requirements.
In 2012, Suffolk police reported 156 arrests of sex offenders. Last year, that number was 204, Madigan said.
"This partnership is a force multiplier," Madigan said. "We have more people now looking at the offenders."
There are 34 registered homeless sex offenders in Suffolk.
They are required to call the department nightly to check in with their shelter location, Madigan said.
Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) said he was concerned that homeless offenders might be clustered in "low-income and minority communities, more so than other communities," and requested a future update on their locations.
"We have people who have committed crimes of a sexual nature and we don't know where they are," Gregory said.
Madigan said detectives had "vetted" 45 shelter locations "dispersed" throughout the county, and would investigate any reports of more than one homeless offender per shelter.Legis. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) lauded the nonprofit's efforts, saying tracking has improved."I know this is something our residents get worried about," Hahn said. "It's an incredible improvement over what we've been doing in the past."