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Accusation: Cops bullying sex offenders

Suffolk's top social Social Service official Wednesday accused Southampton Town police of "intimidation" for showing up overnight and demanding IDs from homeless sex offenders at county trailers in Westhampton and near the Riverhead county jail.

Commissioner Gregory Blass said the pre-dawn inspection followed five or six others in the past three weeks.

"This is a clear effort at intimidation and a form of bullying that is uncalled for," Blass said. "One can only suspect it has picked up in frequency to draw attention away from their own internal legal troubles as a department." Blass was referring to a district attorney's grand jury probe in which prosecutors have subpoenaed a cache of town police records.

Asked about the police visits to the trailers, Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne Holst said: "It is absolutely not being directed" by town officials. "This is police business. They are getting calls to go over there because there are issues."

Town Police Chief William Wilson did not return calls for comment.

Blass said there have been no issues requiring a police response since the trailers opened in 2006.

He said he issued a new policy last week requiring police to have a warrant before entering county trailers. But he said the officer who appeared early Wednesday ignored the policy, despite a warning by a contract security guard used by Community Housing Innovation Inc., which manages the site for the county.

Southampton officials have protested the presence of the trailers because the town is saddled with Suffolk's entire homeless offender population -- which ranges from 20 to 30 people nightly. The men are brought by taxi from all over the county.

Initially, the trailers were supposed to be shifted to other sites around the county, but they have never moved. An effort to open another site in Farmingdale drew more than 1,000 protesters and was abandoned. Suffolk plans to construct a network of a half-dozen small supervised mini-shelters throughout the county, but the first one has yet to open.

Southampton has filed a lawsuit seeking to close the trailers and has gotten the court to block Suffolk from adding shower facilities at the Westhampton site. Welfare advocates, meanwhile, have filed a separate lawsuit to force the county to improve the facilities including adding showers The county currently provides showers for homeless offenders at another site.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone earlier this month called the trailers "blatantly unfair" to the East End and said he was "committed to changing it by year's end."

Blass said he asked the Bellone administration to make informal contact with town officials about two weeks ago to try to resolve the issue of the police visits. A Bellone spokeswoman declined to comment.


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