Members of the New York State Senate Majority Conference today called on Governor Eliot Spitzer to implement a three-point plan within the next sixty days to help identify the whereabouts of the more than 1,000 convicted sex offenders who have failed to comply with address verification requirements. The plan advanced by the Senators, which can be implemented by the Executive without legislation, will help law enforcement officials track down these missing sex offenders, while also heightening awareness among members of the media and the general public when a sex offender might be on the loose in their community.
"We cannot allow more than 1,000 convicted sex offenders to simply drop off the radar screen and roam our streets," Senate Majority Task Force on Critical Choices Chair Martin Golden said. "Today we are advancing a three-step strategy to immediately address this public safety scandal, and we are calling on Governor Spitzer to implement these steps within the next sixty days."
In an effort to more effectively track these dangerous missing sex offenders, members of the Senate Majority have proposed a three-point plan that would: 1. establish a new investigative unit specifically tasked with tracking these criminals; 2. launch a new Missing Sex Offender Website to keep the public informed about sex offenders whose whereabouts are unknown; and 3. create a new "Predator Alert" information sharing system to quickly inform law enforcement, the media, and the public when an offender goes missing. The plan would:
Establish A New NYSAFE Office: (The New York Sex Offender Apprehension and Felony Enforcement Office)
The proposal calls on the Governor to immediately establish a new investigative unit – the NYSAFE Office – within the State Police that would be focused solely on tracking the location of registered sex offenders; verifying residency compliance; and notifying the public when a sex offender’s whereabouts can no longer be determined.
Create New Missing Sex Offender Website:
The NYSAFE Office would work with local law enforcement agencies to track down and verify the residency compliance of registered sex offenders. When an individual’s whereabouts can no longer be determined, the NYSAFE Office will be required to immediately post Level 2 and Level 3 offender information on a new DCJS Missing Sex Offender Website until such time as the offender is located and complies with the law. This website would be similar to New York’s "100 Most Wanted" website, which has proven to be a highly successful law enforcement tool that has helped identify and apprehend many of the worst fugitive felons in the State.
New York's "100 Most Wanted Site," which has already received more than two million hits and led to the capture of more than 100 violent criminals statewide, currently includes the following information about fugitive felons: the offender’s name, picture, county of conviction or location of criminal activity, and the crime committed.
Making similar information available about missing sex offenders would accomplish two key objectives: first, it would enable parents and concerned citizens across the state to quickly ascertain whether the new neighbor down the hall or across the street may be a sex offender who is trying to hide his whereabouts from authorities. And second, it would serve to heighten the visibility of offenders who continue to move in violation of residency requirements, thereby assisting law enforcement officials from across the State in identifying and apprehending these individuals.
Create the PREDATOR Alert System
(PREDATOR - Protect, Deter, Alert, Track, and Report System)
The third element calls for the State Police to establish a new PREDATOR Alert System – patterned after the highly successful Amber Alert system – that would immediately alert local law enforcement agencies and the media of missing registered Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders. Currently, when a child goes missing an Amber Alert is immediately sent out around the State, and at times, around the country. However, when a level three sexual predator goes missing, law enforcement officials obtain a warrant for the offenders arrest but members of the public are often left in the dark and in danger.
More effective and widespread information sharing would increase the likelihood that sex offenders could be efficiently tracked, thereby helping to protect innocent people. Additionally, high profile law enforcement and media information sharing would provide a deterrent effect to sex offenders who might otherwise try to avoid their legal obligations to report their whereabouts.
"Every sexual predator hiding in our community, unaccounted for is a sex offense waiting to happen," said Senator Andrew Lanza (R, Staten Island). "It is critical that we know where these perverted criminals are if we are to protect ourselves and our children from them."
"New Yorkers want and deserve safe communities for their families," said Senator John J. Bonacic (R/I/C - Mount Hope). "Protecting our families from sexual predators is paramount. Having the resources and a plan in place, such as this one, is critical to that end. We, as elected officials, have a responsibility to our families, community members and all residents of this state to protect them from heinous sexual and violent crimes. There are too many sex offenders not accounted for that could be lurking around any corner in any community. This plan, coupled with other Senate bills such as requiring the GPS monitoring of sex offenders, can work to put an end to this unthinkable situation."
"Every sexual offender is aware of the obligations they face when they are released from prison and there is absolutely no excuse for failure to comply," Senator John Flanagan (R-C, East Northport) said. "The Senate’s three-point plan is critical to enforcing New York’s strict sex offender laws and is designed to make sure that these criminals are held accountable. If implemented by Executive Order, these initiatives will aid in alerting the public, providing needed tools to law enforcement and tracking down those hiding from the law."
"Convicted sex offenders cannot be allowed to evade scrutiny by failing to comply with reporting requirements," said Senator Charlies J. Fuschillo (R, Merrick). "This is a threat to public safety that needs to be addressed immediately. I am hopeful that the Governor will implement our suggestions so that we can better protect all New Yorkers from these dangerous criminals."
"We can and must take action right away to identify where these sex offenders are," said Senator Joseph A. Griffo (R-C, Rome). "We do not want to be in a position where one of these perpetrators slips through the cracks and someone is assaulted. I implore the Governor to take this action immediately."
"We just celebrated a public safety victory with passage of civil confinement legislation," said Senator Betty Little (R-C-I, Queensbury). "But there is much more that needs to be done, and one area desperately needing attention is tracking of sex offenders. The benefit of Megan's Law is severely diminished when sex offenders essentially disappear, a concern expressed by parents who have contacted my office in recent years. The state has a responsibility to work better with law enforcement to track these dangerous predators and this plan would ensure it happens quickly."
"It is unconscionable that 1,000 convicted sex offenders have failed to comply with registration requirements and are right now wandering our streets and living in our neighborhoods," stated Senator Joseph Robach (R-C-I-WF, Rochester). "This poses a very serious threat to our children and families and must be addressed immediately. We cannot risk letting one more day go by without taking these necessary steps to protect our communities."
In addition to the proposals announced today, members of the Senate Majority have introduced a number of bills designed to combat the problem of sexual predators.