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Schneiderman: Bellone Committed To Closing Sex Offender Trailers

Legislator Jay Schneiderman said Bellone is expected to announce a commitment today to end program.

County Executive Steve Bellone is expected today to announce a commitment to abolish the homeless sex offender trailer program, according to Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman.

Bellone has scheduled a press conference for Thursday at 3 p.m. on the steps of Southampton Town Hall to outline the future of the program, which has outraged residents for years, since the two trailers were sited at locations in Riverside and Westhampton in 2007. Schneiderman and Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst are expected to attend.

At the conference, Bellone pledged that the trailers would be closed by the end of the year.

Last week, Schneiderman sent Bellone a letter outlining suggestions that the county could implement during the interim period while plans are put in place to abolish the program. Bellone, Schneiderman said, is expected to announce the new measures at Thursday's event.

"County Executive Bellone is going to  come out to the East End and clearly state his intention to end the program," Schneiderman said Thursday morning. "The goal is to close both trailers. This is a show of good faith."

Among the interim measures Schneiderman suggested include a plan to move the Westhampton trailer back almost 2000 feet -- or approximately a quarter mile -- from where it is currently sited. 

Currently, the Westhampton trailer is placed very near what will soon total approximately 240 residential homes, Schneiderman said. "It is simply too close. It should have never been put there," he said.

Second, Schneiderman said plans will be unveiled to erect a fence around the trailers, provide two security guards at each site, and install video surveillance cameras.

In addition, Schneiderman asked that local police be provided with a daily log of individuals spending the night in each trailer. "I asked for strict compliance with Megan's Law," he said, which requires that Level 2 and 3 sex offenders provide their address to authorities.  As it stands, homeless sex offenders in both the Riverside and Westhampton trailers have been listing their addresses as the sheriff's office in Riverside, making it impossible for local residents to know which sex offenders were frequenting the trailers or identify them. "If one was walking around, you wouldn't know," Schneiderman said.

Finally, Schneiderman said he asked Bellone to ensure no additional capacity was added to the trailers; the Riverside trailer currently holds 20 and the Westhampton trailer, 8 individuals. The objective, Schneiderman said, is to be sure "population won't grow, and they won't put another individaul out on the East End."

Schneiderman feels the commitment on Bellone's part to end the program is a critical step forward. Former County Executive Steve Levy, he added, created the program and thwarted attempts to shutter the initiative. 

Recently, t would have closed the Westhampton trailer. That measure was tabled recently due to talks in the Legislature about layoffs. Schneiderman said the resolution will most likely stay tabled as plans proceed to shut down both trailers. The resolution, he said, served its purpose in keeping the issue on the front burner.

While Bellone will most likely ask for patience at Thursday's press conference, and the time needed to end the program, Schneiderman said he believes the program's days are numbered. "I'd like to be there on the day they cart those trailers out of here."

For years, local leaders including Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter, Suffolk County Legislator Ed Romaine and Throne-Holst, along with Schneiderman maintained that the Town of Southampton should not have to shoulder the burden of housing both sex offender trailers and has called for more equitable distribution.

On Thursday, both Walter and Romaine were surprised to hear about the press conference as neither was invited. "My biggest fear is that they close the Westhampton trailer and dump everything in Riverside," Walter said.

Walter said while he supports closing both sites, the idea of creating a number of residences for the homeless sex offenders and placing them in various communities is one he doesn't foresee working. Instead, Walter favors a voucher system. "That would probably be a better way, rather than having a huge concentration in one area," he said.

Romaine said the contract has been signed with Community Housing Innovations, to begin constructing the new homeless sex offender housing. "I'm waiting for the day when the trailers will be closed," he said.

He said he hopes moving the Westhampton trailer back will provide some measure of security to the seniors living at the nearby Westhampton Pines development -- but says permanent solutions are needed. "Dumping these trailers and the entire homeless sex offender program on the East End was an unconscionable act by former County Executive Steve Levy's administration," Romaine said.

Shana Rowan May 03, 2012 at 07:37 PM
I have yet to hear Bellone explain just where they will be going if the trailers are "shuttered". Perhaps if the public were educated about the basic facts behind sex crime, and for once we reacted with logic and reason instead of emotion, we could actually solve an issue rather than creating 10 new ones. People convicted of sex crimes have the LOWEST recidivism rates of all crimes other than murder; 96% of sex crimes are committed by people with no prior conviction for one (and therefore not on the registry). Lack of stable housing, inability to find employment (both often due to the sex offender label) and lack of access to a support system are all factors that can lead to re-offense. The root of the problem is misconceptions. Why not start there?
Mason Haas May 03, 2012 at 11:06 PM
The Westhampton trailer will not be closed, it is just being relocated so it is no longer within 50' of the community. The plan that is being worked and and was approved by the Suffolk County legislature. Calls for 6 locations to be created throughout the county and each of those to hous no mer than 6 people. This has been a long fought battle sice 2007. I will say that since the change of the County Executive, things are moving. Levy refused to sit with us and always was vetoing bills passed. The county recently agreed to indemnify the contractor who will be overseeing the housing. There will be other measure put in place to better tract those residents. Unfortunately due to state law the county has no choice but to house the homeless offenders. I will say that there is now can be seen a light at the e of the tunnel Mason Haas
MayorMayor May 04, 2012 at 12:31 PM
I have a great idea why don't you offer to house them until they get on their feet! Most of if not all of them are repeat offenders. As far as paying for what they did as far as I am concerned when you violate an innocent child you debt is NEVER paid! You need a wake up call and stop and think for a second. Would you feel the same way if it were one of YOUR children that were abused by these creeps?
Lisa Finn May 04, 2012 at 08:53 PM
Thank you all for your comments. County Executive Steve Bellone committed to closing both trailers by the end of the year, according to Legislator Jay Schneiderman.
Lisa Finn May 05, 2012 at 12:35 AM
In addition, Shana, County Executive Bellone says the plan is to partner with a group called Community Housing Innovations to create a number of residences throughout the county to replace the trailers.

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