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Parents for Megan's Law to begin monitoring Nassau sex offenders' online activities

Laura Ahearn, Executive Director of Parents for Megan's

Laura Ahearn, Executive Director of Parents for Megan's Law and The Crime Victims Center, in the organization's Stony Brook offices on Feb. 12, 2014. The puppets behind Ahearn are used in play therapy to help abused children express themselves. Photo Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

Parents for Megan's Law is slated to begin monitoring the online activities of Nassau County's 550 registered sex offenders early next year, including tracking posts on Facebook and Twitter, and forwarding leads to police.

Acting Nassau Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter said the Stony Brook-based nonprofit, which focuses on preventing sex abuse crimes and supporting victims, also would create a smartphone app to allow the public to report possible sex offender violations.

The police department and Parents for Megan's Law said they expect to begin the program in January but must still negotiate a contract price.

Parents for Megan's Law currently maintains a registry of convicted sex offenders in Nassau, sends email alerts when offenders move in and out of a neighborhood, manages a help line and conducts community outreach.

"If they find just one person engaged in problematic behavior on social media . . . it will be worth 100 years' worth of what we are spending on the program," Krumpter said.

Nassau awarded the contract for the new program to Parents for Megan's Law in June. Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano's proposed 2015 budget, which must clear the County Legislature by month's end, contains funding for the program, said Krumpter, who declined to disclose the amount Parents for Megan's Law bid on the contract.

Laura Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan's Law, said the expanded program would boost public safety by "helping to maintain an accurate and up-to-date sex offender registry."

Parents for Megan's Law also has a three-year, $2.3 million contract with Suffolk County to run a program similar to Nassau's new sex offender monitoring effort. Suffolk's program began last year.

Legis. Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow), presiding officer of the legislature and a proponent of the new program, said, "This effort will provide an additional level of safety for Nassau residents."

In February, Nassau issued a request for proposals for a consultant to work with police to track the behavior and compliance of registered sex offenders. Parents for Megan's Law and Safe Center Long Island of Bethpage responded.

Krumpter said Safe Center's proposal did not meet the county's specifications. Safe Center declined to comment.

The program calls for stepped-up enforcement of requirements that sex offenders accurately register their address with the state. Parents for Megan's Law, which began operating in 1999, will be charged with ensuring that offenders' address, work information and photographs are up to date.

Megan's Law, a 1996 federal law, requires sex offenders to register their addresses and for communities be notified. The law was named after Megan Kanka, a 7-year-old New Jersey girl who was raped and killed in 1994 by a neighbor with prior sexual assault convictions.

Ahearn said her group also will create a telephone hotline for people with questions about Megan's Law and for victims to report allegations; refer sexual abuse victims to local counseling programs; and create a prevention-based education program in schools and police precincts.

The police department and the county's Department of Probation will continue to make all visits and phone contacts with convicted offenders.

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