By LOHR McKINSTRY
ELIZABETHTOWN - Essex County is again considering a local law to restrict where sex offenders can live.
Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas (D-Jay) said he recently learned of 11 convicted sex offenders who reside near an AuSable Valley Central School District elementary school.
He said the proximity of those people to the school worried many people, prompting him to revive the discussion of a countywide prohibition against their presence near a school or park.
“It’s something we might want to discuss again,” Douglas said. “I think we’re going to have to look at it again, possibly creating a law in Essex County.”
The county considered a sex-offender law in 2008 but took no action after several other counties’ laws were shot down in the courts.
Sheriff Richard Cutting said he’d support a sex-offender residency restriction.
“Right now, the only restriction would be if the offender is on probation or parole, they can set restrictions,” he said. “Otherwise, they can live anywhere, overlooking a park or playground.”
ALERTED BY SHERIFFThe State Sex Offender Registration Act does not restrict where a registered sex offender lives, but if the individual is on parole or probation, state law prohibits the person from living within 1,000 feet of a school or other facility for children.
Cutting said he recently sent an email to school officials, giving them the information on where sex offenders live in the AVCS District, which stretches from AuSable Forks to Keeseville and includes parts of Essex and Clinton counties.
“I don’t see any reason why it can’t be done,” he said of passing a county law.
Essex County currently has 108 registered sex offenders in three categories of risk set by the state.
County District Attorney Kristy Sprague said she also is in favor of regulating where sex offenders can reside.
“I would support any legislation locally.”
She said that when she was an assistant district attorney in Clinton County, they learned of a sex offender living across from a school in Plattsburgh who would pull out a chair and sit and watch the children, and there was no law to stop that.
Clinton County has not passed a sex-offender restriction law.
WARREN COUNTY LAWWashington County last year repealed a law that barred sex offenders from living or working within 1,000 feet of any public or private schools, child-care facilities, parks, homes for the developmentally disabled, playgrounds, public or private youth centers, public swimming areas and libraries. The county was told by legal counsel the law would not stand up in court.
Warren County has a law that restricts Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders from living or working within 1,000 feet of facilities used by children.
Sprague said they will look at laws passed in other communities to see what can legally be done in Essex County.