New York State should carry the torch

New York State should carry the torch

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Laws governing sex offenders have turned a corner over the last year.

County and town governments recently lost the authority to regulate where registered sex offenders are allowed to live. That power now rests solely with New York State, which only limits offenders on parole or probation.

While we appreciate the good intention behind one state senator’s bill to let local governments enact their own residency restrictions, it is not ideal.

Part of the reason the local municipalities’ authority was overturned in the New York State Court of Appeals last year is that there were too many layers of restrictions.

In just our area alone, both Suffolk County and the Town of Brookhaven had their own separate restrictions on where registered sex offenders could reside in their jurisdictions.

There should be laws that prevent sex offenders from living within certain distances from schools or their victims, but allowing each county, town or village to decide on their own creates a mishmash of rules that are nearly impossible to follow. When this is the process, there are counties and towns next door to one another, or even overlapping, with different rules. That makes it more difficult for sex offenders to comply, and it would benefit us all if offenders are more able to actually comply with the laws we have enacted. In addition, clean-cut laws that are easy to identify, and thus follow, would also likely bring peace of mind to their victims, who deserve to feel safe.

The onus should be on the state to design more comprehensive restrictions on where registered sex offenders can live. That system should include required distances from victims’ homes and places of employment, as well as schools, playgrounds and other places where children gather. And the regulations should vary slightly based upon a community’s density, so as not to treat urban, suburban and rural areas as if they are the same.

Although more state regulation is not always an appealing idea, this is one of those cases when we need the state to intervene, in order to make enforcement more uniform. And it is an important issue, because it has an immediate impact on our children and on the sex crime victims we have a moral responsibility to protect.