Bellone says sex offender trailers ‘patently unfair’ to East End

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The trailer for homeless sex offenders on the Suffolk County jail property in Riverside.

The homeless sex offenders placed by Suffolk County in trailers in Riverside and Westhampton are still there, despite a county-approved initiative to move them elsewhere, South Fork Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) pointed out to Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association members Monday.

The members didn’t need reminding.

“If you want us to have a march here, just tell us and we’ll go,” said Fran Iacone of Flanders, alluding to past demonstrations local residents mounted against the trailers.

But Mr. Schneiderman said he’s hopeful County Executive Steve Bellone, a Democrat from West Babylon and a former Babylon Town supervisor, will follow through on attempts to discontinue use of the trailers.

“I got nowhere with the old county executive,” he said.

Though county legislators and the former county executive, Steve Levy, battled it out in 2010 and 2011 over what to do with the sex offenders, both said publicly that they favored moving them out of the trailers.

Mr. Bellone released this statement Tuesday on the trailers: “I agree with the concept that homeless sex offenders should be placed at scattered sites around the county. The current situation is patently unfair to the East End and I am committed to changing it.

“Undoing the policies of the last administration will take some time but we are committed to making the change.”

The Legislature approved a plan last year to end the use of the trailers and instead build “mini-shelters” at various locations throughout the county, Mr. Schneiderman said. The shelters would provide counseling and job training for the homeless sex offenders, as well as supervision.

A contractor has been chosen to construct those shelters and has picked out four sites, but nothing has happened yet, Mr. Schneiderman said.

“They are waiting for the county to change the contract,” he said.

There also are some technical issues that need to be resolved, according to Mr. Schneiderman. For instance, the Legislature’s resolution requires the shelters to be in industrial areas, yet most industrially zoned areas don’t allow residential uses.

None of the four undisclosed sites chosen is on the East End, Mr. Schneiderman said, but he added that more than four sites will probably be needed.
More than 30 sex offenders are receiving assistance from the county and both trailers are full, he said. Overall, he added, there are more than 900 registered sex offenders in Suffolk County.

The legislator said he believes Mr. Bellone will be the key to deciding the fate of the trailers, but he acknowledged that the new county executive “has got his hands full with the county budget.”

Mr. Schneiderman said there are so many state, county and town regulations about where a sex offender can and cannot live that it’s often difficult for them to find housing. He said there are legal challenges to those laws, that if successful, could overturn many of the town and county laws.

“These people are not prisoners; they’ve been released,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “We tried to make them wear GPS tracking devices, the courts say no. I feel they should all go back to jail but the courts have decided they’ve done their sentence.”

Mr. Bellone had actually come to Riverhead to discuss the sex offender issue with local officials when he was first considering running for county executive.

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