August 20, 2014

Owego passes sex offender residency restriction law

8-19-2014 New York:

Owego's new sex offender residency law bans Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders from living within 1000 feet of "vulnerable entities"

The Village of Owego board has passed a law prohibiting Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders from living within 1000 feet of places it designates as "vulnerable entities," including schools, libraries and community centers. The law, once in effect, will create an exclusion zone that bans certain convicted offenders from residing in about half of the village.

The law passed the board Monday by a vote of 5 to 1, with one abstention from Mayor Kevin Millar. The last to cast his vote, Millar said he chose to abstain because of a pending state Court of Appeals decision on a similar law in Nassau County.

A map handed out at Monday night's board meeting lists nine different types of vulnerable entities. Places of worship, domestic violence service centers, homeless housing, registered family daycares, registered school-age child care and youth organizations are included. Parks and playgrounds also have 1,000-foot buffer zones around them barring Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders from living there.

"The residency law is a step," former mayor John Loftus said at Monday's public hearing. Loftus, a lifelong Owego resident, has been leading the push for broader sex offender laws in the village.

"Hopefully it will send a message to people that we're at least doing something to look out," he said.

Trustee Eric Yetter cast the lone "no" vote. He said before the vote the law would have the village take its eye off who it needs to be watching.

"This is an emotional issue. I don't want to open our doors to sex offenders coming into town," Yetter said. "I think this is a feel-good measure that doesn't really do anything for us."

Current state law places no restriction on where registered sex offenders may live, with the exception of those on parole or probation. Those offenders may be limited from living within 1,000 feet of a school or child care facility.

The Owego measure, named the Sex Offender Residency Restrictions Law, goes a step further by placing residency limitations on all Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders.

But the fate of the law may hinge on the Court of Appeals' decision in the case People v. Diack, which centers on a Nassau County ordinance barring convicted sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school. Michael Diack was arrested in 2011 and charged with residing 500 feet from a school, in violation of the county's ordinance. He was convicted in 2001 of possessing an obscene sexual performance by a child, served a 22-month sentence and was labeled a Level 1 sex offender. ..Continued.. by Megan Brockett

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