Ronkonkoma residents oppose sex offenders at motel

Residents in Ronkonkoma are worried about sex offenders living in a local hotel, near homes and schools. Videojournalist: Ed Betz (Aug. 15, 2013) 

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A group of Ronkonkoma residents protested Thursday outside a local motel that Suffolk County has used as transient housing for parolees -- including registered sex offenders.

About 10 people gathered outside the Rodeway Inn on Veterans Highway and Fifth Avenue, near Long Island MacArthur Airport, to rally against the housing of offenders.

Hoisting signs with slogans such as, "Is your child the next victim? Think about it," protesters said that up to six offenders were living in the motel, according to addresses listed in the New York State sex offender registry.

"If they're within the parameters [of the law], fine," said protester Theodore Imbasciani, president of the Ronkonkoma Civic Association -- Town of Islip region. "If they're not, then find somewhere else."

County spokeswoman Vanessa Baird-Streeter said the DSS is actively monitoring the presence of sex offenders in the community. She cited the Community Protection Act passed in February that "is focused on community protection and monitoring and verifying across the state, and not to place more than one offender in one location."

No sex offenders were housed Thursday at the inn, according to state and county officials. The county's Department of Social Services has in the past housed two homeless sex offender parolees in the motel on a temporary basis, Ahearn said.

The confusion over the number of sex offenders at the hotel may stem from the 10-day period the state gives parolees to register their addresses -- long enough for some people to move multiple times.

Laura Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan's Law and the Crime Victims Center, said county law requires that sex offender parolees stay at least a quarter mile from schools and other places for children. The inn is a half-mile from Connetquot High School.

Civic member Eileen Panico lives a block from the motel and said she hoped to eliminate the potential for parolees to stay there at all. "It doesn't matter how long they are here," she said. "I don't want them here. They've got to go."

A Rodeway Inn staffer said when DSS places someone at the motel, the agency notifies the manager but no details of the parolee's background or criminal history are released to the motel staff. "We don't know the details," said front desk employee Sri Lata.

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