July 18, 2012

Oneida tables sex offender residency restriction

7-18-2012 New York:

ONEIDA — After a nearly hour long emotional public hearing, the Common Council agreed to hold off action on enacting a residency restriction for sex offenders.

The city’s administration was split on its opinion of the local law that would restrict Level 2 and 3 registered sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, playgrounds and child care facilities. Sex offenders currently living within the city wouldn’t be affected by the legislation.

Ward 5 Councilman Jim Chamberlain, who proposed the local law, said it would prohibit sex offenders from living in 901 homes, or 28 percent of the city’s housing stock, that fall within the restriction. That leaves 72 percent of homes still available for residency.

Police Chief David Meeker, who says there are 33 sex offenders currently living in the city, said the local law wouldn’t preclude sex offenders from moving to the city entirely, but would simply restrict where they could live.

Several councilors, former city officials, county officials and members of the public expressed concern over the legality of the proposal. The local law would preempt the state’s Sexual Offender Registration Act, which doesn’t impose any residency restrictions. The constitutionality of similar local laws have been challenged in court and overturned.

Mayor Don Hudson said it’s the city’s responsibility to protect its population of children. Recognizing that there’s a “pretty good chance” that the legislation would be challenged, he said he’d rather have to explain why the administration chose to do something than explain why it didn’t.

By enacting a residency restriction, Oneida Supervisor Lewis Carinci said the city would be pushing sex offenders to less populated areas where they won’t be scrutinized by the watchful eyes of neighbors, a potentially more dangerous action than allowing them to live within the city.

He questioned whether or not the administration had contacted county agencies, like the probation department, that may be burdened or effected by the enforcement of the local law. Madison County Board Chairman John Becker seconded that. While he commended the council for their action to address one of many “social ills,” he urged the city to contact the probation department.

Oneida Resident Shana Rowan prepared a visual aid to support her argument against the proposal, using statistics, quotes and maps.

Engaged to a Level 2 sex offender, Rowan challenged the statistics cited in the local law, particularly the double-digit rate of recidivism. She was adamant that a residency restriction could increase recidivism while simply promoting a false sense of security.

By prohibiting sex offenders to live within a community, they are more apt to become homeless or transient, leading to the increased likelihood that agencies responsible for monitoring them will lose contact with them, she said.

While it may be “easy to say who cares, they’re sex offenders,” Rowan said the administration would be failing the city’s children by founding public policy on “myth.”

Oneida Resident Barbara Beaner was in support of the legislation, arguing that the minority of the population shouldn’t be in control of measures needed to protect other residents. She urged the council to look at the “big picture.” As a victim of abuse herself, she said victims live with the abuse they suffered the rest of their lives. Without “too much sympathy” for sex offenders, she said “you made your bed, now lay in it.” ..Source.. by CAITLIN TRAYNOR

No comments: