By Jano Tantongco
State and community leaders are calling for changes to local and state sex offender laws.
During Tuesday’s Huntington Town Board meeting, Elwood School District PTA President Deborah Weiss took issue with a New York State Court of Appeals ruling that has effectively dismantled local sex offender laws.
The ruling, which was made in February 2015, effectively struck down local and county laws restricting sex offender residency due to existing state legislation on the issue. Currently, state law restricts level 3 sex offenders, who are under supervision, from willfully entering school grounds, or from living within 1,000 feet of a school or day care center.
Due to the state court’s ruling, the Huntington Town Board is contemplating removing the Child Protection Act from town code. The act, enacted in 2005, prevents level 2 and level 3 sex offenders from living within a quarter-mile (1,320 feet) of a school, child day care center, day camp, park, beach or playground.
“As a community and state, why are we allowing the rights of convicted criminals to supersede those of minors and the vulnerable population,” Weiss said. “Do we not have a moral, ethical and legal responsibility to protect the rights of minors and ensure their safety?”
Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone said the town now has “very limited jurisdiction” due to the state’s ruling.
“But, one of the things we do have is the ability to be advocates.” Petrone said, referring to a collaboration with other elected officials.
Edward Flood, speaking on behalf of State Assemblyman Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue) as his chief of staff, said during the meeting that Murray is working with state Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R-East Northport) and Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci (R-Huntington Station) to craft legislation that would extend the time sex offenders must remain on the sex offender registry, as well as give local governments some powers over where sex offenders live.
In a statement read by Flood, Murray said he wishes local restrictions could remain in place because he believes “local governments should have the right in being able to set certain boundaries on where convicted sex offenders may reside in order to protect its citizens.”
The Huntington Town Board can vote on its proposed code change as early as May 10.