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Letter: Pre-dawn checks blunt shelter use

Anna Throne-Holst

Anna Throne-Holst Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

There is a critical reason for our objection to pre-dawn identification checks at the overnight trailers operated as shelters by the Suffolk Department of Social Services and county jail officials in Westhampton ["Claim: Cops bullying sex offenders," News, May 17].

Some regard this issue simplistically: Who cares whether homeless sex offenders get a good night's sleep? The problem with pre-dawn ID checks by the Southampton Town police, however, is not so simple.

Suffolk goes beyond other counties in complying with state law to shelter all homeless. We segregate sex offenders from the rest of the homeless population and place them in supervised trailers at two locations, each with two guards. Shelter occupants must follow rules while there. That is why, contrary to the Southampton Town supervisor's false claim, there have been no reasons for the police to make pre-dawn ID checks. At the same time, we provide the police and probation officials with daily logs of who stayed each night.

If the needless awakening of shelter occupants at 4 a.m. continues, it will discourage sex offenders' use of the shelters. Instead, they will find their own overnight places to stay without security, and with no rules or monitoring.

We look forward to closing these trailers and using supervised shelters at scattered sites as soon as they are established, and this homeless population will still be segregated and supervised.Gregory J. Blass, Ronkonkoma

Editor's note: The writer is the commissioner of social services for Suffolk County.

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