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Babylon hearing on sex offender residency

Babylon Town Hall, as seen on Dec. 14,

Babylon Town Hall, as seen on Dec. 14, 2011, at 200 East Sunrise Hwy. in Lindenhurst. Credit: Carl Corry

Babylon officials plan to hold a public hearing Tuesday on a proposed law that would restrict where sex offenders live in the town.

The legislation would make it unlawful for convicted Level 2 and Level 3 registered sex offenders -- considered moderate to high risk to re-offend -- to live within 1,320 feet, or a quarter mile of any land "utilized, in whole or in part, as a school, child day-care center or day camp" as well as any land used for a park or playground.

Violators of the law would be notified by the town's Quality of Life Task Force and given 30 days to relocate. If the offender does not move, he or she would be issued a fine ranging from $250 to $2,500 and /or receive a prison sentence of up to 15 days.

The proposed legislation also targets property owners who rent, lease or sublease property to a sex offender or allow an offender to reside on their property. Violations would result in a fine of $250 to $2,500 to the property owner.

The law would not be retroactive and would not apply to Level 1 sex offenders or to offenders younger than 18 who live with a parent or guardian.

The proposed legislation is similar to Suffolk County's sex offender residency law, which also restricts offenders within a quarter-mile radius of places with children. The less stringent state sex offender law has a 1,000-foot radius and is limited to those on parole.

In 2006, Babylon became one of Long Island's only towns to map sex offender residences. Since then, town officials have expressed frustration, finding most offenders in town live in restricted areas in violation of the county code, and others never lived at the addresses they reported. In 2009, then-Town Supervisor Steve Bellone expressed concern that residency laws only drive sex offenders underground, and he released a report showing that offenders are barred from living in more than 80 percent of the town.

Town Supervisor Richard Schaffer said driving offenders underground was not a consideration when drafting the proposed law. "I think between the various agencies doing their jobs -- probation, police, the town, code enforcement -- I think that we'll be able to be as thorough as we need to be," he said.

Asked if the proposed law is designed to push sex offenders out of the town, Schaffer said, "It's an effort to make sure they're not anywhere near where they can endanger, hurt or cause harm to a young person."

The public hearing will be held at 10 a.m. in Babylon Town Hall in Lindenhurst.

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