BARBARELLEN KOCH PHOTO
March organizer Mason Haas (fourth from right) addresses
protesters in front of the Suffolk County jail in Riverside
About two dozen people toting signs that read “share the burden” and “protect our children” attended a rally near the Suffolk County Jail in Riverside Saturday to protest the county’s policy of housing homeless sex offenders on the East End.
Despite the rain, residents and local officials marched along Route 24 from the Riverhead County Center to the jail, as a few cars honked in support.
“We hope to send a message,” county Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches) said before the march, held to apply further pressure on lawmakers to dissolve the locally despised program.
The rally was hosted by Mr. Romaine and Mason Haas, a Riverhead tax assessor and outspoken critic of the county’s homeless sex offender program.
The county has been housing most all of its homeless sex offenders at a trailer at the jail and on county-owned land in Westhampton since 2007. Local officials and residents have criticized the plan because they say it burdens East End and costs the county millions of dollars in taxi fees.
Jamesport mom Patricia Kelly said she attended the rally because the potential for sex offenders wandering downtown Riverhead has made her and her children feel unsafe and has also complicated revitalization efforts.
“It’s not doing us any good,” she said.
Earlier this year, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy said the county would be doing away with the trailers in favor of a voucher system that would provide offenders with daily $90 voucher to be used for food and stays in motels and boarding houses.
The Legislature has since stalled a measure to increase the Department of Social Services petty cash fund to get that program fully implemented and the trailers towed away.
Two west end legislators, Steve Stern and Lou D’Amara, both Democrats from Huntington Town, have introduced a bill in the Legislature that would make the trailers, which do not have showers or cooking facilities, permanent.
Presiding Officer Bill Lindsay (D-Holbrook) has recently called on the county to scrap both plans in favor of spreading the population across the county, with no more than three Level 2 and 3 sex offenders, deemed the most likely to re-offend, living in the same place.
See the April 22 edition of the News-Review for additional coverage.