Sex offender trailers in Riverside to close Memorial Day weekend

05/24/2013 4:18 PM |
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | County Executive Steve Bellone announces the homeless sex offender trailers will close within the next three days.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | County Executive Steve Bellone announces the homeless sex offender trailers will close within the next three days.

The Suffolk County trailers in Riverside and Westhampton that housed homeless sex offenders for the past six years will be shut down by the end of Memorial Day weekend, government officials and civic leaders from Suffolk County, Riverhead and Southampton announced Friday afternoon.

“It may be Memorial Day, but it feels like Christmas,” said Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst at a press conference in Riverhead Town Hall.

County Supervisor Steve Bellone said Suffolk County police now have the resources available to speed up clearing out the trailers. About a dozen sex offenders have been removed over the past few months, while the remaining 26 sex offenders left in the trailers will be moved to government-run shelters across the county by the end of the weekend, he said.

No shelter will hold more than one sex offender, and none of the sex offenders will be placed into shelters with children, Mr. Bellone said.

“This six-year nightmare in these communities is finally coming to an end,” said County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, who had long been an opponent of the trailers

The sex offender trailers were first brought to Riverside and Westhampton in 2007, and were originally supposed to rotate through the Suffolk County towns every three weeks. But the trailers never moved, causing residents and government officials alike near the trailers to protest.

The plan to shut down the shelters is part of the Community Protection Act passed by the county legislature earlier this year. Mr. Bellone said the plan represents “the toughest monitoring and enforcement program in the country,” adding that Suffolk County police, who will monitor the sex offenders using GPS technology and daily reports, will hold discussions with town police departments on the East End to determine how they will keep track of the offenders.

Riverhead police chief David Hegermiller could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Bellone said the county may use a voucher system to keep track of some of the sex offenders, depending on how much of a threat the police department thinks they represent. But he said the increased monitoring of the county’s other sex offenders — which number over 1,000 — will make the entire county safer.

Eight sex offenders have already been arrested for violations, he said.

“We saw that this act, which has been implemented now over the past couple of weeks, has already borne fruit,” Mr. Bellone said. “This is the kind of thing you’ll see more frequently.”

Brad Bender, the former president of the Flanders, Riverside, Northampton Community Association, said the trailers were moved thanks to the support from the community and from town and county politicians who pushed for the trailers to be closed.

“It’s finally, finally come to an end,” he said. “We’ll know it’s over when we see their taillights in the dark. [The trailers] came in under the cover of darkness and now we’ll see them leave under the cover of darkness. It’s great.”

psquire@timesreview.com

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