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EDITORIAL: Sex offender residency restrictions don't work

Fifty of the 57 registered sex offenders in Babylon in September reported addresses in areas that are off limits under Suffolk County's residency restriction law. Sixteen were legally in restricted zones because they were released from prison before the law was enacted. But having 34 flout a law that, even when obeyed, does little to make children safer, provides compelling evidence that the restrictions offer false comfort.

Residency restrictions have been enacted with good intentions. But most children who are molested are victimized by people they know and trust, not strangers. And even dangerous strangers aren't deterred by residency restrictions that control where they can live, but not where they go, whom they befriend or whom they contact online.

Babylon makes an effort to see that offenders comply with the law, but what it can do is limited. When town officials find an offender living where he shouldn't, they send letters to him, the homeowner and the Suffolk County Police Department. They also check for outstanding property violations. But it's really up to Suffolk officials to enforce the county law.

They try. When a registered offender lists an address in Suffolk, police check if the residency law is being violated. When it is, offenders are given notice and a bit of time to relocate. Police also work with parole and probation agencies to enforce the restrictions. That's a lot of effort to enforce a law that, even with compliance, won't make residents safer. hN