A new plan that could shut two controversial homeless sex offender trailers permanently was unveiled this week.
Under Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone's new plan, which was unveiled Thursday by law enforcement and Parents for Megan’s Law at the Suffolk County Legislature’s public safety committee meeting in Hauppauge, the current clustering of homeless sex offenders in one community will end.
Instead, the trailers will close and homeless sex offenders will be relocated to other county shelters -- with only one registered sex offender per facility.
Law enforcement will be made aware of each individual and where they are living, with an eye toward enhanced monitoring and other community safeguards.
According to Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, Parents for Megan’s Law will strengthen and support the Suffolk County Police Department’s program that verifies the addresses of all registered sex offenders within the county.
Currently, there are 1,016 registered sex offenders residing in Suffolk County; 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.
"The plan promises to provide the toughest sex offender monitoring and enforcement program in the nation," Schneiderman said.
Schneiderman has said that the legislation could be up for a vote before the legislature as soon as next week. He has urged the public to come out and participate to help ensure passage of the new legislation.
A public meeting was held on Wednesday night, organized by Schneiderman to garner input on the trailers, which have sparked a public outcry for years.
Bellone spoke with Schneiderman Wednesday and explained the focus of the plan would be to ensure that sex offenders would not be clustered in any one neighborhood; instead, they would be spread across Suffolk County.
A mini-shelter program which had previously been passed by the legislature is not one Bellone feels is the best approach, Schneiderman said, since the shelters would still be placed in communities, with a clustering of six sex offenders in each facility.
Should the plan get the green light in the legislature, Schneiderman said the Parents for Megan's Law would act as a contract agency to ensure that all 1000 sex offenders in Suffolk County were living where they should be and community safeguards were in place.
During their conversation, Schneiderman said Bellone reiterated his May pledge to close the two trailers. "He said the trailers will absolutely close within a matter of months. I told him I'm going to be driviing the tractor with that trailer hitched to the back of it," Schneiderman said.
The plan, Schneiderman said, is a good one; the next step is to urge legislators to vote in support and pass the legislation; 12 votes would be required.
Schneiderman said he is "cautiously optimistic" that the plan could pass. First, he said, both Parents for Megan's Law and the Suffolk County Police Department are advocating the proposal, and also, the mini shelter program plan is a backup -- which might compel legislators who do not want the mini shelters in their districts to support the new legislation, he theorized.
Finally, Schneiderman said Bellone has made a public commitment to closing the trailers. "It makes a big difference," he said. "For years I had a county executive fighting against getting rid of the trailers. Now I have one fighting to get rid of the trailers."
What do you think of the new plan to spread sex offenders across Suffolk County? Let us know in the comments section.