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08/15/13 2:00pm
08/15/2013 2:00 PM

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | This metal staircase and water pipeline are all that remains of the trailer that once housed homeless sex offenders in Riverside.

Three months ago, the homeless sex offenders housed in a faded white and blue trailer in the Suffolk County Correctional Facility parking lot were moved out, marking the victorious conclusion of a six-year battle by politicians and civic leaders.

And now, the trailer is gone, too.

The Riverside trailer, which had rested on cinder blocks next to employees’ parked cars, was removed over the weekend, leaving behind a patch of faded asphalt.

It had been too hard to move, so county workers simply traced around the trailer when they laid down the new parking lot.

A metal stairway leading to where its entrance had been and a few water and electrical pipes sprouting from the ground were all that remained of the trailer.

“That means we have an end to a long, long fight,” said Mason Haas of Jamesport, who was one of the strongest advocates for the trailers’ removal. “Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to sit out there with a beer and watch them go.”

Mr. Haas said he hopes other states look to the county’s new approach to housing sex offenders and learn from it, adding that without the support of residents and politicians, the trailers would never have been moved.

“You have to stay on government to get things changed at times,” he said.

The county-run trailers in Riverside and Westhampton had been operating since May 2007, a short-term solution that turned into a much longer stay.

The trailers were supposed to rotate among Suffolk County towns every three weeks to keep any one community from bearing the full burden, but that plan quickly fell by the wayside and the trailers became permanent.

Now, homeless sex offenders are now being housed in county-run shelters scattered throughout Suffolk. No shelter that serves families or children will take on a sex offender, county officials have said.

Though the sex offenders were long gone, the trailer remained an eyesore for the Suffolk County Sheriff’s office.

As he walked near where the trailer had been Wednesday morning, chief of staff Michael Sharkey scoffed and kicked a small piece of metal half buried in the dirt among the discarded chip bags and trash. It was a rusted harmonica.

“It’s one less headache to have,” Mr. Sharkey said. “We had nothing to do with the administration of it. It was just in the corner of our parking lot.”

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05/24/13 4:18pm
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.”

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03/15/13 10:25am
03/15/2013 10:25 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO |  The inside of the trailer for homeless sex offenders place outside the Suffolk County Jail in Riverside.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The inside of the trailer for homeless sex offenders place outside the Suffolk County Jail in Riverside.

In February the Suffolk County Legislature unanimously approved a law to redistribute about 40 homeless sex offenders who were housed in trailers in Riverside and Westhampton.

The plan was to spread the sex offenders out, one per shelter, at county-run facilities.

However, according to a Newsday special report, the county doesn’t have nearly enough facilities to comply with the new law.

“The county only has four shelters for single males and six that house male and female singles, according to figures reviewed by Newsday from the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless, a nonprofit that seeks to eliminate homelessness,” Newsday reported.

To read the full story, click here: Suffolk lacks enough sex-offender shelters

Previous coverage from the News-Review:

Sex offender plan approved; Riverside trailer to shut

02/05/13 5:55pm

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The inside of the trailer for homeless sex offenders place outside the Suffolk County Jail in Riverside.

The Suffolk County Legislature unanimously approved a law Tuesday evening that will redistribute the 38 homeless sex offenders currently housed in construction trailers in Riverside and Westhampton to shelters across the entire county.

The new plan will spread the sex offenders out, one per shelter, at county-run facilities, where they will be monitored more closely by county police.

Suffolk County Police Chief James Burke and Parents for Megan’s Law director Laura Ahearn, who crafted the plan with County Executive Steve Bellone, first pitched it to the Legislature’s public safety Committee in Hauppauge last Thursday morning.

Ms. Ahearn was back before the entire Legislature Tuesday, urging members to approve the plan.

“For seven years we have talked about this,” she said. “This community protection plan is the solution. It’s not perfect and you can poke holes in it, but it’s the best in the nation.”

Homeless sex offenders had been housed at the same two trailers since 2007, even though the original plan was for them to rotate throughout the county. The Riverside trailer was located next to the Suffolk County Jail.

Under the new plan, sex offenders will no longer reside at the trailers and officials promised they will not be shipped to shelters that serve families.

Chief Burke also said last week that the department’s intelligence database will be updated to include information on the activities of the more than 1,000 sex offenders throughout the county, which can be cross-referenced and easily searched by officers in the field.

Officers will check in with the homeless sex offenders each night to ensure that they are staying where they are assigned, he said.

“They’re gonna know that we know where they are,” he said at the committee meeting.

Chief Burke said the department expects costs of the new program to be significantly less than the $4 million the county is currently spending to house the sex offenders on the East End, since the department will be utilizing police personnel who are already in the field.

Ms. Ahearn also unveiled her group’s new eight-point plan, which includes hiring two teams of retired police officers to verify addresses of [non-homeless] sex offenders and verify the work addresses of Level 3 sex offenders. Offenders at lower levels are not required to report their work addresses to police.

She said 60 percent of Level 3 offenders don’t currently report their work addresses, even though they are required to by law.

Enforceability in the five East End towns, which all have their own police departments, would depend on local police chiefs signing on to the county’s plan, said Chief Burke. He said the county’s resources and intelligence will be made available to any other police department that signs on to the plan.

Prior to Tuesday’s vote, Flanders Riverside Northampton Civic Association president Brad Bender said the time had come to rid the East End of the burden of housing all the county’s sex offenders.

“You have an opportunity to take responsibility,” he said, addressing the entire Legislature. “It is easy to do nothing, but these are your residents. Like a leper colony, you’ve chosen to ship them to us.”

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said her only major concern with the plan, which she supported, is a loophole that could allow the county to revert back to the trailer plan.

“They should be decommissioned to make sure there is never a way that we will fall back on this again,” she said.

Legislator John Kennedy (R-Smithtown), who said legislators only received the plan at 12:30 p.m.Tuesday, was among a small group of legislators to voice concern with how quickly the bill was brought to a vote. But once role was called, the faction all voted yes.

“I don’t like the way this was handled, but I am going to support this so it passes unanimously,” he said.

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01/09/13 9:00pm
01/09/2013 9:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The inside of the trailer for homeless sex offenders in place outside the Suffolk County Jail in Riverside.

With the News Year’s Day deadline to close the Riverside and Westhampton homeless sex offender trailers having come and gone without progress, County Legislator Jay Schneiderman has set up a community meeting later this month for residents to state their concerns.

Mr. Schneiderman was a guest speaker at Monday’s meeting of the Flanders, Riverside, and Northampton Community Association. He said County Executive Steve Bellone, who had promised to remove the trailers by the end of 2012, called him on New Year’s Eve to apologize and ask for more time to clear out the homeless trailers.

The trailers house all of Suffolk County’s homeless sex offenders, a policy that local town and county officials said was unfair to the Riverside and Westhampton communities who are being forced to shoulder the burden.

Mr. Schniederman said that while he believes Mr. Bellone will keep his promise and that he “remains committed to getting rid of [the trailers],” the community is not done fighting yet.

“I want to hear from you guys, too,” Mr. Schniederman said. “We’ve got schools, we’ve got libraries, we’ve got a lot places where children are and I will take whatever you say to the County Executive.”

The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Jan. 30 at the County Center in Riverside and is open to the public.

Though Mr. Schneiderman said he was frustrated with the lack of progress on the issue, he said the county executive promised he would have a comprehensive proposal tackling not just the problem of homeless sex offenders in Suffolk County, but solving issues of housing all homeless families in Suffolk County by the Legislature’s first meeting in February.

Mr. Schneiderman said he hoped to have a draft of the plan before his Jan. 30 meeting to share with residents.

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06/19/12 9:39am
06/19/2012 9:39 AM

Lucas Rivera, left, and Phillip Riley

A man living at the Suffolk County homeless sex offender trailer in the county jail parking lot in Riverside reported last Tuesday that he was punched in the face by a fellow trailer resident with whom he’d had an argument, according to Southampton Town police.

The suspect in this case is listed by police as Lucas Rivera, 50, who has lived at the trailer since at least 2008 and has been arrested several times over the years, including once in 2008 for urinating on Riverhead police headquarters, another time for causing a disturbance at the Riverhead 7-Eleven and once last year for failing to personally verify his address with local law enforcement every 90 days, as required by law, according to police.

According to the state registry, Mr. Rivera is considered a Level 3, or high risk, sex offender. He was convicted of third-degree attempted sodomy in 2002 and spent nine months in jail, according to the registry.

The victim, Phillip Riley, 50, sustained redness and swelling on his face, police said. He is listed on the state registry as a Level 2, or medium risk, sex offender. He was convicted in 2008 of second-degree sexual conduct against an 8-year-old child and spent three years in state prison, according to the registry.

05/03/12 3:00pm
05/03/2012 3:00 PM

County Executive Steve Bellone vowed to end the county’s current policy regarding homeless sex offenders within the first year of his administration.

Mr. Bellone made the announcement at a press conference at Southampton Town Hall Thursday afternoon, where he was joined by County Legislator Jay Schneiderman and members of the Southampton Town Board.

The county currently houses homeless sex offenders who receive Department of Social Services assistance in two trailers, one in the parking lot of the county jail in Riverside and one on county police property in Westhampton. Both are located in Southampton Town.

The trailers, which the county initially said would move to different locations, have remained in Southampton Town since 2007.

“We have never once thought that we would not take our share of the responsibility in the Town of Southampton,” said Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst. “Never once have we wanted to shirk that responsibility. We totally accept the fact that have a share of that responsibly to take. But we are the only ones that have been saddled with that responsibility for five years.”

The Riverside trailer currently houses about 20 sex offenders and the Westhampton one about 8, according to Mr. Schneiderman.

He said he has attended many press conferences about eliminating the trailers, but this is the first one where a county executive was present.

He said former County Executive Steve Levy constantly thwarted efforts to eliminate the trailers.

“I am committed to making sure we eliminate this terrible public policy as a burden on the Town of Southampton and the East End within the first your of my administration,” Mr. Bellone, a former Babylon Town Supervisor who was elected county executive last November, vowed Thursday.

Mr. Bellone also announced Thursday that the county will move the Westhampton trailer back 1,700 feet, so that it is behind the fence line of the police training facility there, and there will be an additional fence installed around that trailer for added security. There are no immediate plans to move the Riverside trailer, he said.

However, the county also will have two security guards posted at each trailer site on a nightly basis to log in the offenders who are brought to the trailers on a nightly basis, and that information will be provided to the police.

In addition, Mr. Bellone said, the county will now make sure there is accurate reporting to the New York State Sex Offender Registry.

These changes will take place within the next few weeks, he said.

Mr. Schneiderman said the way the addresses of sex offenders are currently reported on the registry, it’s impossible to tell if they are in the jail or the sex offender trailer.

The county executive said his administration is working on a new policy regarding homeless sex offenders but he offered few specifics, saying the policy is still being development. He did say the current plan to have six smaller shelters housing no more than six sex offenders each will be a part of that plan, and that the plan will not put all of the burden on one town, as is done now, but will spread the distribution of homeless sex offenders throughout the county.

Ms. Throne-Holst said the county is currently spending millions of dollars on taxi fares to transport the sex offenders from the two trailers to points west during the day.

Mr. Bellone’s speech was well received by some critics of the current policy.

“I’m happy,” said Jamesport resident Mason Haas. “It’s been a long time.”

Mr. Haas demonstrated for the media the lack of security at the trailers five years ago when he was able to walk through the woods to the Riverside trailer without being stopped.

“I’m happy we now have a county executive that meets with us.”

“I’m thrilled,” said Andrea Spilka, the president of the Southampton Town Civic Coalition, which has lobbied against the trailers. “This is the first time really we’re going in the right direction.”

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Suffolk County

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, center, Legislator Jay Schneiderman and Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst at Thursday's announcement.