State Senator James L. Seward (R-C-I-/Milford) today called on the state to implement a three-point plan to help identify the whereabouts of the more than 1,000 convicted sex offenders who are missing because they have failed to comply with state address verification requirements. Seward was joined by Herkimer County Legislature Chairman Leonard Hendrix, Sheriff Chris Farber and other Herkimer County officials and area police agencies.
The plan, which can be enacted immediately and without legislation, will help law enforcement officials track down missing sex offenders and heighten awareness among the media and the general public when sex offenders might be on the loose in their communities.
"We cannot allow more than 1,000 convicted sex offenders to simply drop off the radar screen and roam our streets," Seward said. "The senate and Herkimer County are advancing a three-step strategy to immediately address this public safety scandal, and we are calling on the state to enact them as soon as possible.
"This about protecting children in our communities, plain and simple. We have a simple plan to do so that will work and can get going immediately," Seward added.
In an effort to more effectively track these dangerous missing sex offenders, Seward outlined a plan that would:
*Establish a new investigative unit specifically tasked with tracking the criminals;
*Launch a new "missing sex offender web site" to keep the public informed about sex offenders whose whereabouts are unknown; and
*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 NYSAFE -- The New York Sex Offender Apprehension and Felony Enforcement Office. A new investigative unit – the NYSAFE Office – within the state police 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 a new missing sex offender web site. 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 web site until the offender is located. The website would be similar to New York’s "100 Most Wanted" web site, 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. It has led to the capture of more than 100 violent criminals statewide, and currently includes offenders' names, photographs, counties of conviction or location of criminal activity, and the crimes committed.
Create the PREDATOR - Protect, Deter, Alert, Track, and Report 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, police may obtain a warrant for the offender's arrest but members of the public are often left in the dark.
The state Division of Criminal Justice Services recently advised the senate that it is taking steps to address some of the senate's concerns regarding address verification, but Seward said time is of the essence.
"I applaud Sen. Seward and the state senate for these proposals," said Herkimer County Legislature Chairman Leonard Hendrix. "He's put forward positive steps that will help protect our communities and make children safe We, as elected officials, have a responsibility to our families, community members and all residents of this state to protect them from sexual and violent crimes. There are too many sex offenders not accounted for that could be lurking around any corner in any community."
"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," said Senator Seward. "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, including GPS monitoring of sex offenders.