By Dave McKinley
Local officials concerned over state relocating sex offenders in their towns.
WEST SENECA - After our story that aired Wednesday regarding the state's surprise placement of seven-convicted sex offenders in a West Seneca neighborhood, officials in other towns are expressing concerns about whether similar situations will crop up in their municipalities.
At least one state lawmaker is pledging to look into their concerns.
"There are three or four places where it's just happened," New York State Sen. Patrick Gallivan (R-59th District) told several town supervisors and mayors in his district. He meets with the local leaders regularly to discuss a variety of issues.
At such a meeting held Thursday, West Seneca Town Supervisor Sheila Meegan issued a warning for her colleagues.
"I want you to know, it's coming to your neighborhood, too," Meegan said.
The state, in an effort to save money, continues to shut down secure facilities, de-institutionalizing those with severe developmental disabilities by placing them in group homes instead.
This resulted in the recent placement of seven men, previously housed in a secure facility near Rochester, into two homes recently acquired by the state on Leydecker Road.
However, besides being developmentally disabled, the men are also convicted sex offenders ... now living near concerned neighbors with children.
"This is something, now that it's called to our attention, that I think we have an obligation to take up", said Gallivan, who chairs the Senate Committee on Crime and Corrections.
One thing he would like his committee to take up is notification laws.
Records show the state dutifully notified West Seneca police when the sex offenders were placed in the community, but, under current law, it did not have to tell anyone else, like town officials or neighbors.
"My God …how can the state say, 'that's okay, we followed the law and that's good enough'? Well, it's not good enough," said Gallivan. "If there's not that legal (notification) requirement now, I would suggest that there should be, and that's one of the things we will be looking into, to effect what I would think is a necessary change."
Gallivan also pledged to look into another concern expressed by local officials: the fact that any local laws they may have created, governing where registered sex offenders can live, do not apply to state facilities, including group homes.
"You could understand why there could be some exemption for an institutional type setting, where there are obvious signs such as fences and other security measures," said Gallivan, explaining that anyone would be able to easily deduce that there people living there, under the care and custody of the state, who may pose a danger to others.
"But when they are being housed in a residential area, in homes appearing no different than surrounding neighbors, it makes absolutely no sense that an exemption like that should exist," he said.