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Educators, officials seek more housing limits on sex offenders

Educators and others are pushing for passage of state legislation that would empower county officials to regulate where convicted offenders live.

With classes across Long Island set to resume in the coming weeks, some Suffolk education leaders and elected officials are raising concerns that nearly two dozen of the highest-risk sex offenders are living close to schools.

The officials are pushing for passage of legislation that would empower county officials to regulate where sex offenders live.

The issue stems from a 2015 state Court of Appeals ruling, which found that Nassau County had overstepped its authority when it passed a local law prohibiting Level 3 sex offenders — considered at the highest risk of offending again — from living within 1,000 feet of a public or private school.

The state’s highest court said state law covering sex offenders supersedes any local legislation, invalidating nearly 120 municipal ordinances statewide. State law only restricts Level 3 sex offenders who are still on parole or probation from living within 1,000 feet of a school.

In recent years, Senate and Assembly Republicans have proposed legislation that would address the court’s ruling by allowing county officials, such as the Nassau and Suffolk county executives, to create “Child and Victim Safety Zones” that establish “reasonable restrictions” where convicted sex offenders can reside.

A bill sponsored by Assemb. Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue) also would require Level 1 sex offenders — deemed the lowest risk of re-offending — to remain on the state’s sex offender registry for 30 years, up from the current requirement of 20 years. The provision, however, could be dropped as part of a compromise bill, officials said. Higher-level sex offenders are required to register for life.

The legislation was passed by the State Senate in June 2017 and again in May 2018. But the measure has failed to gain support in the Assembly, due largely to a lack of support from New York City lawmakers.

“This is common sense and unfortunately common sense isn’t very common in this day and age,” Michael Hynes, Patchogue-Medford schools superintendent said at a news conference on the issue Aug. 20. He was joined by leaders of the South Country, William Floyd and Sayville school districts.

By Robert Brodsky @BrodskyRobert
Updated August 23, 2018 6:00 AM