A convicted child rapist recently moved to within 370 feet of a school, another moved to within 170 feet of a different school, and yet another registered sex offender moved to within 101 feet of a third school, according to their own required reports to authorities, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Tuesday.
Bellone said in Albany that these cases and more like them show why the State Legislature and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo must act to end this pattern since local laws restricting where sex offenders can live was struck down by the state’s highest court two years ago.
“This is the most fundamental issue we deal with in government,” Bellone said. He lobbied Albany to protect Suffolk County’s sex offender restrictions and to help other counties to adopt similar measures to keep offenders from moving near schools.
Assemb. Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue) is sponsoring a bill that would keep Level 1 sex offenders — deemed by a court to be of low risk of repeat offenses — on the public registry for 30 years, compared with the current 20 years.
The bill also would allow local governments to create “reasonable restrictions” on where a registered sex offender may live.
More serious cases require registration for life. Under the state Sex Offender Registration Act, there is no restriction on where a sex offender may live. But if they are on probation or parole, they may be prohibited from living within 1,000 feet of a school or other facility caring for children.
In 2015, the state Court of Appeals ruled that state sex offender laws dating to 2000 supersede local laws in Nassau County and at least 117 other municipalities statewide.
In a lawsuit, opponents of the local laws, including former sex offenders, said communities were using restrictions on how close offenders could live to sites including schools, parks and day care centers to push them away from families and homes into other communities. Many of those communities would then enact more restrictive laws.
However, Sen. Tom Croci (R-Sayville) argued that the offenders “are forced to have more restrictions on their life because of the lives they destroyed.”
Murray is part of the Republican minority conference in the Democrat-led Assembly with little power to bring bills to the floor. However, the legislation is co-sponsored by two majority members, Assemb. Steven Englebright (D-Setauket) and Kimberly Jean-Pierre (D-Wheatley Heights).
There is no Senate sponsor yet.
“There has been cooperation,” Murray said. “We are absolutely making progress.”