The Daily News: Senate approves package of bills to toughen penalties for sex offenders

Patrick M. Gallivan

January 27, 2015

New York state would have to notify a local municipality whenever a sex offender is transferred from a state facility to a community program or residence, under a bill approved by the state Senate.

The bill (S396) was sponsored by Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan, and is part of a package of related legislation whose approval was announced Monday by the Senate Majority Coalition.

The seven bills would help prevent the most dangerous offenders from having contact with children and college students, strengthen penalties for those who help sex offenders evade registration requirements, and create a public awareness program to educate schools, community groups, and clergy on issues related to sex offenders.

Gallivan’s bill would amend the mental hygiene law to require the commissioner of the Office of People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) to notify the chief executive officer of any municipality where a sex offender is transferred. The superintendent of schools in which the facility is located must also be notified.

“Local officials have a right to know about the transfer of sex offenders into a community program or residential neighborhood so that they have time to properly address public concerns and security issues,” said Gallivan, R-Elma. “Once notification is made, local officials will have the information necessary to appropriately respond and keep their community safe.”

The legislation would require the Commissioner of OPWDD to notify local officials no later than 10 calendar days prior to the transfer taking place.   

The state has placed several developmentally disabled sex offenders at state-owned group homes on Leydecker Road in the town of West Seneca and in the village of Scottsville in Monroe County after a state facility near Rochester was closed, catching the community off guard and raising concerns about public safety, Gallivan said.

Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, R-Amherst, sponsored legislation (S869) making it a crime for anyone to knowingly harbor, house, or employ a sex offender who has failed to register or verify residence or employment and fails to contact their local law enforcement agency.

“This legislation addresses the serious problem of dealing with those who protect convicted sex offenders who they know have not registered with the Division of Criminal Justice Services,” Ranzenhofer said. “Under the proposed bill, a person would be obligated to tell officials that a convicted offender is living with or working for them. I am pleased that this bill is moving through the legislative process.”

Also approved by the Senate:

— Legislation (S851) sponsored by Sen. Jeffrey D. Klein, D-Bronx, that would prohibit Level 2 and 3 sex offenders from being placed in temporary and emergency housing or homeless shelters where children are present.

— A measure (S2084), sponsored by Sen. John Flanagan. R-East Northport, which would prohibit a sexually violent or Level 3 sex offender who committed a crime against a child from being granted custody and unsupervised visitation with a child. These sex offenders would remain ineligible unless they provide clear and convincing evidence that custody or visitation would benefit the child.

— Legislation (S1608) sponsored by Sen. John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope, that would require reporting of multiple residences when a sex offender is living somewhere part-time. Under current law, offenders are only required to register their primary residence with the Division of Criminal Justice Services. The bill also requires the Division to develop a notification system to report offenders who have multiple residences.

— A measure (S833) sponsored by Sen. Joseph Robach, R-Rochester, which would prohibit Level 3 sex offenders from living in student housing on college campuses and makes it a class A misdemeanor upon conviction of a first offense, and a class D felony upon conviction for a second or subsequent offense.

— Legislation (S845), also sponsored by Robach establishes a sex offender public awareness outreach program. This program would provide educational outreach to schools, community groups, and clergy on issues related to sex offenders.

 

The bills will be sent to the Assembly.

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