Friday, May 16, 2014

NY - Bill would tighten sex offender rules

Morning paper and coffeeOriginal Article


Legislation introduced by state Sen. Patrick Gallivan concerning sex offenders makes sense and should be approved by lawmakers. The bill would require the state to notify local municipalities and schools when a sex offender is transferred from a state facility to a community residence or program. The commissioner of the Office of People With Developmental Disabilities would be required to make the notifications no later than 10 days before the transfer takes place.

The relocation of dangerous individuals to a residential neighborhood is always cause for concern. Local officials have a right to know about the transfer of sex offenders into a community program or residence in their community, so that they have time to properly address public concerns and security issues,” Sen. Gallivan said in a news release.

The bill, S7064, is co-sponsored by state Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, and has been referred to the committee on Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities.

Such notification would go a long way toward easing concerns such as were raised when several developmentally disabled sex offenders were placed in group homes after the state facility where they had been staying was closed. People living near the state-owned group homes, in West Seneca and Scottsville, were caught off guard.

Notification is important. People do need to know when a convicted sex offender is living in their neighborhood. They also need to assess the level of danger that sex offender poses. Each convicted sex offender is evaluated and assigned a level. Factors taken into consideration include use of force, weapons, alcohol or drugs, the victim’s age, number of victims, assault or injury of the victim and relationship to the victim. Then a judgment is made according to how likely the offender is to repeat the behavior. Those at low risk of repeating the offense are assigned to Level 1; Level 2 is for those with moderate risk; Level 3 are those at high risk of re-offending and who present a threat to public safety.

Knowledge goes a long way toward easing fears and helping people deal appropriately with the situation. A Level 1 offender in the neighborhood is reason for caution, not panic. Sen. Gallivan’s bill would make sure people get the knowledge they need to keep everyone safe.

People should remember, however, that not every sex offender has been caught and conveniently labeled. Children need to be protected from known offenders, but they also need to be protected from offenders who aren’t yet known. In the end, there is no substitute for good parenting and precaution.

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