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Town supervisors lobby Albany for tighter sex offender laws

At a press conference at Babylon Village Hall

At a press conference at Babylon Village Hall on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016, Assem. Joseph Saladino, center, holds up a letter asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo's for his support in bolstering existing sex offender laws. Saladino is flanked by Babylon Village Mayor Ralph Scordino, left, and Assemb. Dean Murray, right. Credit: Ed Betz

Suffolk County town supervisors are pushing for tighter statewide restrictions against convicted sexual offenders and are backing proposed legislation by a state lawmaker that would give more control to local governments wanting to crackdown on where offenders can live.

The ten Suffolk supervisors showed their support for State Assemb. Dean Murray’s (R-East Patchogue) proposed legislation in a Tuesday letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Murray’s legislation passed in the Senate 58-5 during the last legislative session, but died in the Assembly. Sen. Michael Venditto (R-Oyster Bay) sponsored the bill in the Senate. In the Assembly, the bipartisan bill had 26 co-sponsors.

Murray, on Thursday, said he plans to reintroduce the bill in the next legislative session, with the support of the town supervisors.

“We need to place more authority on the local level to control the sexual predator population and this law does that,” Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said in a statement.

Murray said the law would extend the time that level 1 sex offenders have to be on the state sex offender registry from 20 to 30 years. A provision in the bill allows for non-violent offenders under age 21 to come off the registry after 20 years.

The law would also return power to local government to set restrictions as to where sex offenders can live. For example, the law wouldn’t allow registered sex offenders to live within a quarter-mile of a work place or residence of their victim or victims.

“I think we can get this done. I’ve been working behind the scenes and making progress,” Murray said.

In 2015 the state’s highest court ruled that that state law covering sex offenders supersedes any local laws, thereby invalidating 130 local municipal laws across the state restricting where sex offenders live.

Currently, the state law bans convicted offenders from living within 1,000 feet “of a school or other facility caring for children,” and applies only to those on parole or probation who are Level 3 - deemed the highest risk to reoffend.

Also on Thursday, Assemb. Joseph Saladino (R-Massapequa) held a press conference in Babylon Village attended by Murray, Venditto and other elected officials to encourage residents to sign a petition pushing for passage of the law.

Residents in the village said they were alarmed several weeks ago when they learned from the school district that a convicted level 3 sex offender had moved into a house across the street from Babylon Elementary School.

The offender was not on probation or parole and therefore not restricted under the state law from living near schools or parks, officials said. The offender has since moved out.

In the letter to Cuomo, the supervisors wrote that the legislation “authorizes counties across New York State to adopt, by local law or resolution, sex offender residency restrictions to prevent Level 3 offenders...from residing too close to public, private, and charter schools.”

With Denise M. Bonilla

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