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Lawmaker: Controversial Homeless Sex Offender Trailers Hauled Off Sites

The public was fearful that if the trailers remained in Riverside and Westhampton, they could be used again.

They're outta here.

The controversial homeless sex offender trailers in Riverside and Westhampton are shuttered, moved — and gone forever, according to Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman. 

The trailers have been disconnected and removed from their sites, according to an email from Acting Suffolk County Department of Social Services Commissioner John O’Neill to Schneiderman and Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst.  

In May, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone ended the emergency housing program, and the trailers were closed.

However, the abandoned trailers remained on-site, sparking concerns in the community that should the new program fail, the county could reinstate the program and once again shelter the homeless sex offenders.

"Removing the trailers from their sites was an important measure to ensure the community that the trailers would never return,” Schneiderman said. “I am grateful that the County Executive took the final step in permanently ending this unfair program."

Former Department of Social Services Commissioner Janet DeMarzo first sited the trailers in the two communities in 2007, when former Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy was in office.

At the time, public officials in both Southampton and Riverhead towns decried the move, saying they'd had no advance warning and that the burden of the trailers was unfairly placed on the proverbial shoulders of the two municipalities.

The Suffolk County Legislature passed legislation to end the trailer program in 2010 but former Levy never followed through on the directive, Schneiderman said.  

After taking office, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone vowed to end the trailer program after passing the Community Protection Act, designed to provide additional monitoring of all registered sex offenders and permanently end the county’s policy of clustering registered sex offenders in any one location.  

When the trailers closed in May, after six years of outcry from residents in Riverside and Westhampton, Schneiderman said, "This was a hard fought victory."

Residents, Schneiderman said, were overjoyed by the news. "They felt very dumped on here."

"We have cause for celebration," Scheiderman added at the time. "This six year nightmare in these communities is finally coming to an end."

Schneiderman outlined the history of the contentious issue, and said previous attempts to close the trailers were red lighted by former County Executive Steve Levy. 

Once Bellone took office, Schneiderman said there was hope. 

"I always approached this issue as if the trallers were placed next to the house where my kids were sleeping," Schneiderman said. "I vowed I would not rest until this was resolved."

Bellone said there has been a "misplaced focus on a handful" of offenders -- currently 26 -- that represented less than three percent of the sex offenders in Suffolk County. The goal was to implement a policy, he said, "that makes everyone safe in Suffolk County. The message is if you are a sex offender and you are not toe-ing the line, you will be re-arrested."

Bellone said only one offender per shelter in Suffolk County would be allowed; no offender would be able to stay in shelters where children are located.

Legislator Al Krupski said when he heard how the trailers were moved to the communities and left there, he wondered how the "criminal populations could be dumped on the East End. It was kind of unbelievable."

Krupski said Superstorm Sandy delayed Bellone's efforts to shutter the facility but the county executive's intent never wavered.

Perhaps the hardest thing, Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said, was to hear from neighbors who were so affected by the problem but be unable to deal with it because Levy "was not willing to do what was the politically easy thing for him to do, but the right thing to do."

Throne-Holst said the story sounds like "a fairy tale, with a happy ending." Bellone, she said, "is a man of his word." 

In February, Bellone unrolled the new plan for sex offenders, which was unveiled by law enforcement and Parents for Megan’s Law at the Suffolk County Legislature’s public safety committee meeting in Hauppauge.

Law enforcement offiicals are now made aware of each individual and where they are living, with an eye toward enhanced monitoring and other community safeguards. Bellone said increased coordination between police departments was key.

Address verification is one component of Bellone's eight-point plan to protect the community.

In addition, the plan includes using email, social media and other technology to better alert and notify the community.

Bellone said there are 20 to 25 sites where homeless sex offender trailers would now be sheltered, including traditional shelters and motels.

Are you happy that the homeless sex offender trailers are gone forever? Share your thoughts with Patch.
Sex Offender Issues August 19, 2013 at 08:05 PM
http://sexoffenderissues.blogspot.com

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