Romaine : State, County Must Act On Sex Offender Issue

Legislator Ed Romaine is calling for county, state attention to the issue while an advocate for sex crime legislation reform seeks to shatter prejudice.

A homeless has sparked fierce debate this week on both sides of the issue.

Legis. Ed Romaine, R-Center Moriches, is calling upon County Executive Steve Bellone for a timeline regarding a proposal for four to  six “mini” homeless sex offender sites that would be created and house only six individuals each. The sites would be monitored 24 hours a day, he said, with rules that must be adhered to by homeless sex offenders.

While expensive, Romaine said currently the cost to tranport sex offenders from their hometowns in parts of western Suffolk to the trailers by taxi every night tops $15,000 per year.

And while plans seemed to have stalled, Romaine said he thinks Bellone will move the initiative forward, unlike his predecessor, former County Executive Steve Levy.

“I believe we’re getting close to closing the trailers,” he said, adding that he wants both trailers shut down as soon as possible. “It’s been taking a long time to address,” he said.

Bellone did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Romaine also said the problem needs to be addressed on a larger scale; he believes New York State needs to embark upon legislative reform to address the issue of sex offenders, who are unable to find work and left homeless.

“It’s then on our backs as taxpapers, as a local government, when they are shipped back and the county department of social services has to feed, clothe and house them,” he said.

In Suffolk County, Romaine added, there are not only the 40 sex offenders living in the two trailers, but 1,000 sex offenders who are not homeless countywide. He believes civil confinement for Level 2 or 3 offenders who have been screen and shown “not to be stable,” might be the answer.

“These people should not be let loose on the community,” he said. “We can’t arrest a guy because he thinks about it. We have to wait until he commits a crime, that’s the problem.”

On the other side of the issue, Shana Rowan, an advocate for sex crime legislation reform in New York State, whose fiancé is listed on the New York State sex offender registry, said there are misconceptions that need to be shattered.

“Obviously, and as always, most community members are outraged and screaming ‘pedophiles’ and ‘perverts.' However, this is simply not accurate,” she said.

Rowan said the term “sex offender” does not mean "pedophile" or "child molester.” She added that many sex offenders do not have child victims and in recent years the number of individuals arrested for non-contact crimes has risen dramatically.

Many convicted sex offenders, Rowan said, are teenagers with consenting underage girlfriends.

Recidivism rates for sex offenders are “extremely low,” Rowan said, pointing to studies that indicate convicted sex offenders arrested for another offense range from 2 percent to 11 percent.

“The assumption that sex offenders are dangerous to children is founded largely in hysteria, especially when it's been repeatedly proven that the overwhelming majority sex abuse victims are abused by people not on the registry, and are better able to avoid drawing attention to themselves,” Rowan said. “The danger in letting communities continue to perpetuate the hysteria, without providing them with all the facts, is that's how knee-jerk, unenforceable laws get passed. Yes, harshly regulating sex offenders may feel good, in a vengeful sort of way, but it really does nothing to protect children.”

Rowan added removing incentive for sex offenders to reintegrate healthily makes it far more likely they will re-offend. “So really, intolerance promotes sex crimes,” she said.

Social stigma and prejudice makes life difficult for famlies and loved ones of offenders on the registry, Rowan said. “Children and families of registrants are so easily swept under the rug and ignored; I don't think most people are even aware of how many innocent people are suffering because of widespread misconceptions,” she said.

But Romaine said change needs to start on the state level and, with a focus currently on the budget crisis and other problems, critical issue such as sex offender legislation tend to get overlooked.

“There is one priority government must address and that is public safety,” Romaine said. “A government that can’t protect its citizens should not be in existence. This is a compelling and urgent situation.”

Vicki HEnry April 04, 2012 at 05:37 PM
Now if you would like to participate in a bit of math just take the 763,000 men, women and children required to register across the states and multiply by 3 or 4 family members who suffer the collateral damage of these registries when they are harassed, threatened, beaten, asked to leave their church and other organizations, have signs placed in their yards, flyers distributed around the neighborhood all because they try to keep their family together and get on with their lives. Vicki Henry Women Against Registry
Lisa Finn April 05, 2012 at 02:07 AM
Thank you all for your comments. I hope you all can come to Riverhead Patch as a place to have these incredibly important discussions.
PROUDMOM2 April 05, 2012 at 02:27 AM
This comment is exactly the uneducated hysteria that prevents laws that will actually protect our children. Sex is the secondary benefit of rape. A testosterone suppressor will not remove the need for control which is the primary reason. If a man can't control through sex what do you think he will turn to? Won't be flowers....chew on that one then get the facts. Only about 5% of registered sex offenders are pedophiles, predators and child molesters. Young teens with internet access are the newest target at an increased number of 2500% (that is not a typo). If the powers were interested in protecting even 1 child they would shut down these site that make the material accessible. But in the case of limewire they were afraid of offending someone's freedom of speech right so they left it up and running for 4 years shutting it down on a music download violation rationale. 4 years of needless viewing and a lot of teens and young men not realizing that the incorrectly labeled video they download ould land them in jail and a registerd sex offender.
PROUDMOM2 April 05, 2012 at 02:28 AM
You can control your young male at home with your computer....maybe......but what about when they use the library computer or a friends. And, your opinion that Mr. Romaine is trying to address the more serious criminals is idealistic. That may be the ideal behind it but not the reality of what will happen. Just ask the tens of thousands of mothers of young men who are now in prison and /or registered sex offenders if they thought it would happen to them. If you have a young male in your family this will soon come to a member near you. Mr. Romaine wants votes and a bigger chunk of the budget. As for public safety.. read Jeffrey sndlers latest NY research on the subject regarding sex offenders:THE CURRENT SYSTEM DOES NOTHING FOR PUBLIC SAFETY!!!!!!
PROUDMOM2 April 05, 2012 at 02:31 AM
THANK YOU for allowing both sides of the issue to be told and attempting to educate the public on the issue and striking down the hysteria associated with it.


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