ELIZABETHTOWN — Whether Essex County needs a local law restricting where convicted sex offenders can live is something county lawmakers will discuss at a special session.
But some experts say restricting residency would just cause other problems.
The meeting is planned for 10 a.m. Monday, Oct. 22, will be held in the Old County Courthouse at Elizabethtown and is open to the public.
Essex County Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas (D-Jay) said he’s also inviting officials from Franklin and Clinton counties to discuss a possible joint law.
“We have decided we would like to get together and have a brainstorming session regarding the possibility of a tri-county local law that would regulate residency and other activities of sex offenders,” Douglas said.
“Area residents have concerns with regard to sexual offenders and their ability to reside near school property.”
STYMIED IN COURT
A discussion of a law to restrict sex-offender residency came up at an Essex County Board of Supervisors Public Safety Committee meeting earlier this month.
Douglas said he had recently learned 11 convicted sex offenders live near an AuSable Valley Central School District elementary school, and some people were concerned.
The county had considered a law before, in 2008, but abandoned its passage because many similar laws were being struck down in the courts.
And they’re still being struck down, said Shana Rowan of Oneida, an advocate against residency-restriction laws.
“The ACLU has successfully repealed dozens of ordinances. Anyone who votes for this law is doing it for reasons that have nothing to do with child safety.”
Courts have overturned sex-offender residency laws in Nassau, Putnam, Schenectady, Schuyler, Albany, Rensselaer, Rockland and Saratoga counties and the City of Geneva.
Rowan said problems with residency restrictions include increased transience homelessness, which leads to higher likelihood of recidivism; breaking up of families, since most sex offenders have families, and children and would be forced to move away from them if they live in a restricted zone; sex offender clustering, a high concentration of offenders in small areas; and inability to access support systems.
“All of these things have a negative impact on the community,” Rowan said. “Like the registry itself, residency restrictions are fatally flawed because they are based on myths, not facts.
“Sex-offender recidivism is in the single digits and has been since before the registry, and 96 percent of sex crimes are committed by someone not on the registry, who is a family member or acquaintance to their victim. None of them are impacted by sex-offender laws.”
Essex County District Attorney Kristy Sprague and Sheriff Richard Cutting have both said they would support a sex-offender residency law.
Cutting said his deputies go out many times during the year to check on all of the county’s registered sex offenders to make sure they are living where they say they are.
Criminal charges are filed by the Sheriff’s Department against offenders who are allegedly in violation of the State Sex Offender Registration Act.
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