Suffolk County late Thursday began relocating homeless sex offenders from East End trailers that have housed them for years, with the aim of closing the facilities within days.
Hours after County Executive Steve Bellone held a news conference to announce eight arrests under a new law requiring closer monitoring of all registered sex offenders, aides confirmed that some of about 40 homeless offenders had been moved to shelters throughout Suffolk.
"They're beginning efforts to reduce the amount of folks in the trailers," said Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider. Asked where the residents were going, Schneider would only say that they would receive shelter under the terms of the recently enacted Community Protection Act, which calls for homeless offenders to be spread throughout the county's shelter system.
Troy Wallace, a trailer resident who has challenged the new law in federal court, said he was notified at 4:30 p.m. Thursday that he'd need to find alternative housing. As of 7 p.m., he said officials still hadn't told him or other homeless offenders where to spend the night.
"They've got everyone in limbo," Wallace said. "People are waiting at train stations."
Schneider denied that the trailers had already been shut down, and that residents hadn't immediately been provided alternative housing.
Legis. Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk), who has long pushed for closure of the Riverside and Westhampton trailers, said he'd yet to receive confirmation that the facilities were closing, but that the Bellone administration had assured him that the process would be completed by Memorial Day.
Schneiderman said passage of the the Community Protection Act and the shutdown of the trailers always "were tied together."
Suffolk officials have been struggling for years with the problem of housing convicted sex offenders.
Beginning in 2007, Suffolk began placing them in trailers that were to be moved to different sites around the county. But they remained on the East End, generating community protests.
Suffolk legislators in 2010 approved a plan to create a half-dozen mini-shelters at industrial parks spread throughout Suffolk, but that drew opposition and was never implemented.
Bellone said Thursday that the Community Protection Act had helped lead to eight arrests in its first week of implementation. Bellone announced the arrests at Suffolk police headquarters in Yaphank, days after reports of the federal court challenge to the law surfaced.
Under the law, passed unanimously by the county legislature on Feb. 5, police officers may make unannounced checks to verify addresses that offenders have reported. Parents for Megan's Law, a nonprofit victims advocacy group, is helping to check offenders' listed addresses.
Charges against the eight offenders arrested since last Friday include failing to submit a recent photograph, failing to record address changes and improperly using the Internet for sexual material, police said.