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Laura Ahearn

Laura Ahearn. Photo from campaign

Following tallies of absentee ballots that were completed yesterday by the Suffolk County Board of Elections, Laura Ahearn and Laura Jens-Smith both won their Democractic primaries.

Ahearn, a crime-victim advocate, will run in November against Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) for the seat being vacated by longtime New York State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who announced he is retiring after the end of this year.

The executive director of Parents for Megan’s Law and the Crime Victim’s Center, defeated Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, Southampton Town Board member Tommy John Schiavoni, Suffolk Community College student Skyler Johnson and nurse Nora Higgins.

“I would like to thank my voters for their support, and the other participants in this race for their hard work and determination to advance our shared values,” Ahearn said in a statement. “I look forward to the election in November, where everyone involved in this primary effort can work together and send a forward-thinking, pro-choice woman to represent this seat in Albany for the first time in its history.”

In a post on her candidacy Facebook page, Cartright, who received the second-most number of votes, conceded the race and thanked voters for their support. 

“The results are in and the Democratic candidate chosen is not the one we hoped for … my fight for our community is outside the bounds of any one election,” she said. “Our efforts will not cease. We will be steadfast until every goal is achieved. I will continue to fight for each of you as a Brookhaven councilwoman.”

Schiavoni, a Southampton town councilman, received the third-most number of votes.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to seek such an office and offer my skills and experience to the people of senate district 1,” he said. “Our democracy survives only with effort and is dependent upon the participation of thoughtful men and women voting, caring and resisting the complacency that leaves the responsibility of governing to others.”

Johnson, a young Mount Sinai resident and recent graduate of Suffolk County Community College, gained 12 percent of the total votes.

“I don’t consider this a loss,” he said in a statement. “I was able to set the stage for a number of issues in this primary election.”

Jens-Smith will be vying for the Second District State Assembly seat being vacated by Palumbo, she will face Republican challenger Jodi Giglio. She won by over 50 percent of the votes against her opponent, Sound Beach resident Will Schleisner.

“I want to thank the people of the Second district who have humbled me with their support, this pandemic election hasn’t been easy—but folks rose to the occasion, and turned out in huge numbers…now we set our sights toward November,” she said in a statement.

On his campaign Facebook, Schleisner congratulated Jens-Smith and said he will join the campaign of Steve Polgar to compete for Assembly District 3.

New York State Senator – 1st District (Democratic)

Laura Ahearn – 34% – 2,360 in person votes – absentee ballot 6,059 – total votes 8,419 

Valerie Cartright – 27% – 2,120 in person votes – absentee ballot 4,442 – total votes 6,562

Thomas Schiavoni – 24% – 1,812 in person votes – absentee ballot 4,006 – total votes 5818 

Skyler Johnson – 12% – 945 in person votes – absentee ballot 1,882 – total votes 2,827 

Nora Higgins – 4% – 356 in person votes – absentee votes 596 – total votes 952

New York State Assembly – 2nd District (Democratic)

Laura M. Jens-Smith – 77.99% – 1,772 in person votes – absentee ballots 4,645 votes – total votes 6,147

William Schleisner – 22.01% – 500 in person votes – absentee ballots – 1,475- total votes 1,975

 

From left, Skyler Johnson, Laura Ahearn, Valerie Cartright, Tommy John Schiavoni are running for the Democratic nod for the state Senate District 1 seat. Campaign photos

With a June 23 date for the New York State primary fast approaching, TBR News Media hosted an online debate to hear directly from those Democrats running for the District 1 State Senate seat. 

The position has been held for the past 40 years by Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson). At the beginning of the year, LaValle announced this year would be his last in the Senate.

Yet even before the venerable senator made his announcement, Democratic contenders were lining up for the seat. By late January, five Dems were in the race. Meanwhile, the Republicans have already settled on their front-runner, state Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk). 

Candidates 19-year-old activist Skyler Johnson, Southampton Town Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni, founder of Parents for Megan’s Law Laura Ahearn and Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) all responded to TBR’s requests for a debate. Nora Higgins, a Ridge resident and the regional coordinator of the Public Employees Federation, did not respond to multiple requests for her availability in the debate.

With the number of cases of COVID-19 in New York dropping, and with the reopening process happening, how would you like to see Long Island continue to reopen, while still putting in safeguards to prevent a resurgence?

Many candidates called the fact the state allowed big-box stores to stay open was unfair while small businesses were forced to close and lose out on several months of business. 

Cartright said she and her fellow members of the town board have decried the state’s unequal practices of forcing small businesses to remain closed for months while stores like Walmart or Target stayed open. She touted the town’s small business reopening task force made up of local business leaders to look at this issue.

“As we move forward [in reopening], we find gaps, we find things that are not necessarily equitable,” Cartright said. “We have been on calls for the past four months each day talking about how we can best service our constituency — we cannot stop that process now.”

Johnson said the virus spread because of people not being able to call in sick for work or leave their jobs, especially if they might lose health insurance. He called for the passage of the New York Health Act, which would allow universal health coverage for residents.

“We need more places where business owners can reach out to, to keep themselves, their employees and their customers safe,” he said.

Ahearn said the state needs to ensure it’s not limiting small businesses, and called for further tax incentives beyond the federal stimulus money given to small shops to ensure they can continue. 

“Small businesses are really struggling out there,” Ahearn said. “If Walmart is open, and people are buying tchotchke, why couldn’t they go to local stores and buy that tchotchke?”

Schiavoni, a former teacher for almost 30 years, also said New York needs to “unify” the health care systems, including hospitals and walk-in clinics, and said New York State will need to lobby the federal government for additional financial relief for local municipalities. With 34 school districts in Senate District 1, many could very well lose close to 20 percent of state aid, which means cuts that could be “absolutely staggering.”

“Which means we’re cutting jobs when we really shouldn’t,” he said.

With the ongoing protests, and with bills recently passed in the state Legislature with most already signed by the governor, what is your opinion of protester calls for reform, and what more should state and local governments do to bridge the divide of race relations on Long Island?

Johnson said he helped organize two separate protests, one in Port Jefferson Station and another in Stony Brook, which he said he was “very proud of.” 

He called for more police reform than the bills passed in the Legislature. As a proponent of what is called “defunding the police,” he said it is more about taking money given to departments and investing it into communities. He also called for demilitarizing departments, citing Los Angeles police just recently having been forced to get rid of their grenade launchers.

“We need to be passing reforms on every level to reform police departments,” Johnson said. “We need to pass reforms that combat if a black and a white man are arrested, the black man will likely receive a harsher sentence.”

Schiavoni said that Suffolk has “great police officers who need to be lauded,” and those people need to be leaders to get rid of racist elements in the ranks.

“Those officers that shouldn’t be in the ranks, let’s face it, they kill people,” Schiavoni said. 

He said the state needs to alter the way police are trained and led, and also enfranchise the people of the community to help police their own communities. 

Cartright said the killing of George Floyd was just the inciting incident that “helped open the eyes of people to what’s been happening to black and brown people for centuries.”

When looking at the bills that passed the state Legislature, she cited that many of the bills had been on the docket for years “with no traction.” Before she became a councilwoman, she had been working as one of those looking to “push the needle” toward reform.

Cartright added that it’s on the state and people to make sure local governments are not circumventing this newly passed legislation, and that this is “just the beginning.”

Ahearn said as the person who runs Suffolk’s Crime Victims Center, she deals with local police on a day-to-day basis and sees the “overwhelming majority of our law enforcement officers are great cops,” including public safety and police, but the state “needs to weed out the bad ones, because they are literally killing people in our community.” 

She said she supports the ongoing protests that will eventually lead to the end of structural racism not only in police but in health care, housing and much more.

She said the terminology of “defunding” police is wrong, but the state should restructure to allow for de-escalation training and community outreach.

Many young graduates may be looking at a job market similar to those graduating in 2008. What have we learned since then, and how do we make Long Island more affordable to help both young and old consider staying?

Ahearn said she is a strong proponent of transit-based housing, especially citing the county’s work on the Ronkonkoma Hub project, adding that a general need to make investments in infrastructure to help generate funds as both local governments and states have been severely impacted by the pandemic.

“Our young people, our millennials just can’t afford to live here because they don’t have the good, high-paying jobs that are going to give them the income they need,” Ahearn said. 

Cartright said it will take the revitalization of communities to create “additional options for housing.” She said it’s difficult to convince people to step past the initial NIMBYism thought to consider affordable housing options in their communities. She cited her work with the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville hub study for an example of looking at transit-based development, and how it will require sewers before revitalization occurs.

The state, she said, should shift the system that allows young people to buy homes, especially since student loan debt is taken into account when applying for a mortgage, and add more incentives to incorporate affordable components in new developments.

Schiavoni cited his work with Southampton Town creating affordable housing complexes. He said it will require new rezoning laws to allow for mixed-use structures. 

He also mentioned the five East End towns’ Community Preservation Fund, which creates a transfer of some money sales of new homes over $400,000 toward a pool of affordable housing funds.

“These are the kind of innovative ideas we need to employ to keep our people here,” he said. 

Johnson said that, as someone who just recently graduated from Suffolk County Community College, very few young people who when they graduate say they will buy a house and remain on Long Island, but instead say they will leave. 

“I’ve spoken to people in the district who have not only been here for years, but families have been for years, who are saying they need to leave Long Island as soon as possible,” he said.

He said his plan includes taking vacant or derelict homes that go through the demolition process in towns and instead remake and use them to house people. He said he would create a lottery system for these homes, where those would be responsible for certain costs based on their income.

Sen. LaValle has been a proponent of the electrification of the Long Island Rail Road. Where do you stand on electrification and how would you go forward with a plan for a study?

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner and Valerie Catright have considered running for the state senate district 1 seat.

State Sen. Ken LaValle’s (R-Port Jefferson) announcement he would not be seeking reelection has suddenly bolstered both party’s efforts to get a candidate into the 1st District seat.

Several Democrats have already stepped up to run, including Parents for Megan’s Law founder and Port Jeff resident Laura Ahearn, Suffolk County Community College student and Mount Sinai resident Skyler Johnson and Tommy John Schiavoni, a Southampton Town Board member.

Johnson said he thought it was good LaValle was retiring after so long in office. The young Democrat took a shine to a primary that “allows people to hear what candidates have to say, to help us flesh out our ideas.”

Ahearn thanked LaValle for his years of service, adding that now the venerable senator is no longer running, she “looks forward to continuing meeting and listening to voters of the 1st Senate District.”

Suffolk Democratic Committee Chairman Rich Schaffer did not return multiple requests for comment, but has made previous statements to other newspapers that have perked the ears on both sides of the aisle. 

Quickly upon the news of LaValle not seeking another term coming out Jan. 8, rumors quickly circulated who else was on the shortlist. While some rumors pointed to Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant wishing to seek the seat, she strongly put the idea aside, saying she did not want to step into that arena. 

The other person most rumored to be running was Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), who has yet to make an official announcement but responded to inquiries by saying, “The county chair indicated that I would be running — his statement is correct.”

On the Republican side, rumors circulated that Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) would look to take up his cousin’s seat, but the town councilman said he currently resides outside the district boundaries and cannot run for the position. 

Suffolk Republican chairman, Jesse Garcia, said he already had a shortlist for Ken LaValle’s seat that included Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk), Riverhead Town Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, and even Brookhaven council members Dan Panico (R-Manorville) and Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point).

Palumbo said while it would be a step-up, his current leadership position in the Assembly, and the young age of his two children, one 12 and the other 15, might make it a tough call. 

“It wouldn’t foreclose a future run,” he said.

When asked about the prospect of running, Bonner said, “There are a lot of people exploring their options. … I’ve been approached by numerous people to consider it and I am. It’s a conversation I’ll have to have with my family and husband. It is a decision that’s not to be made lightly.”

 

Laura Ahearn. Photo from campaign

Laura Ahearn, longtime crime victims advocate, is ready to take on a new challenge, running for state senate. For 43 years the state District 1 seat has been held by Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), but she said it’s time for change. 

“Many members of the community are grateful for his [LaValle’s] service as I am, but it is time now for a new voice and an advocate like me to fight furiously for our community,” Ahearn said. 

For 25 years, the attorney said she has worked to keep the community safe from sexual predators. Ahearn also founded the Crime Victims Center “from a room in her home” and over the years established it into a nonprofit organization that has worked with local, state and federal law enforcement. 

“There are some serious flaws in the criminal justice reform that took place Jan. 1 that makes our communities very vulnerable.”

— Laura Ahearn

The center’s educational programs have been shown in numerous school districts, along with local colleges and universities throughout Suffolk County. 

“I want to take my advocacy experiences, my legal skills and use it to help our community, children and families up in Albany,” the executive director said. “I know my experience over the past 20 plus years positions me to take on other issues as well.”

Some issues Ahearn hopes to tackle is the recent bail reform issues and MS-13’s infiltration into Long Island schools. 

“There are some serious flaws in the criminal justice reform that took place Jan. 1 that makes our communities very vulnerable,” she said. “Bail reform was absolutely needed, because people who couldn’t afford cash bail were incarcerated, that’s not fair. But we haven’t looked at what the implications are for the community and for victims.”

Ahearn said the recent reform needs to be amended to add some discretion for judges who may need to hold certain offenders who may be eligible for automatic release. In addition, she said law enforcement and probation officers need to be given more resources to further monitor offenders of violent crimes. 

On the MS-13 front, Ahearn stressed we need to make sure we are giving schools the resources and funding they need to ramp up their security to protect students.  

Cost of living and keeping young professionals in Suffolk County have been vexing issues for elected officials. Ahearn knows this firsthand. 

“I have two grown children and they can’t afford to live on Long Island — high taxes are driving our kids out off the island,” she said. “We have to ensure that they have fair wages, educational opportunities, safe work environments and affordable housing.” 

The Port Jefferson resident said in terms of job opportunities she thought Amazon would’ve been a great opportunity for the county and if elected will strive to continue to bring businesses into the district. 

Other issues on the challenger’s radar are the ongoing opioid epidemic, curbing nitrogen pollution in local waterways, marine/wildlife conservation, phone scams targeting the elderly, tick-borne illness, among others. 

Ahearn, who graduated from Dowling College, Stony Brook University and Touro Law School, recently had a campaign kick-off event Dec. 10 and said she is looking forward to meeting and learning from movers and shakers in the area. The senate district stretches from eastern end of Suffolk County to the eastern end of Town of Brookhaven.  

“As time moves forward, I’m going to learn a lot from the advocates in the community — I’m not an expert on some issues and I want to learn from those advocates who are those experts. They have to educate me, so I can represent them,” she said. 

The attorney said the position requires one to work with everyone, something she has done for two decades, helping develop, implement and manage crime prevention programs and assist in drafting a number of state, local and federal laws. 

“I really love what I’ve been doing,” she said. “Voters have a decision to make and I have a demonstrated history of fighting for our community and if that’s what they want — someone who will fight furiously for them — then they should vote for me.”

Within the Crime Victims Center, a children’s play therapy area is designed to allow children to play out their trauma with a therapist, and to prepare for court appearances. Photo by Alex Petroski

In a time of changing cultural and societal norms related to the treatment of victims of sexual abuse, Laura Ahearn now has a movement behind her decades-long mission.

The founder of Parents for Megan’s Law and the Crime Victims Center, a not-for-profit organization, has been a relentless advocate for victims since the late ‘90s. What started as a small operation running out of her Three Village home advocating for sex offender registration has grown into a three-pronged program that is used as a model by other advocacy groups. The CVC assists victims of child sex abuse and rape, provides  services to victims of violent crime, and assists elderly, disabled and minor victims of all crime. Its mission is now virtually a daily part of the national conversation.

“The #MeToo movement has created an ideal climate for us to call upon legislators to help us change a culture which has minimized sexual harassment.”

— Laura Ahearn

“It’s a tremendous opportunity for organizations like ours that have worked with child sexual abuse and adult victims of sex crimes to be able to open up a dialogue now with a higher volume of a voice with state, local and federal legislators,” Ahearn said after attending a breakfast at Stony Brook University that featured lawmakers from across Long Island and all levels of government. The meeting was part of a daylong event designed to start a conversation about localizing the national #MeToo movement, a social media campaign started by Tarana Burke, a survivor of sexual violence. Burke also attended the SBU event.

“The #MeToo movement has created an ideal climate for us to call upon legislators to help us change a culture which has minimized sexual harassment, and a society or environment whose prevailing social  attitudes have the effect of normalizing or trivializing sexual assault and sexual harassment,” Ahearn said.

The group has a list of legislative goals it would like to advance in 2018, like criminalizing “revenge porn” and advancing the Child Victims Act, a state law that has passed the Assembly but not the Senate, which would extend the time frame for a victim to bring forward allegations against an abuser.

Victim advocacy

Though its actual functions have evolved over the years, advocating for victims remains Ahearn’s and the CVC’s primary objective.

The center, with locations in Ronkonkoma and Patchogue, is a certified rape crisis center.
The group has long provided advocacy for child victims of sexual abuse, and has since added advocacy components for adult rape and adult domestic violence victims. In 2006, the mission shifted to provide support for victims of all violent or hate crimes.

“These are cases that are failing between the cracks and no one was helping them,” said Ahearn said, a New York State licensed attorney and social worker.

“You feel like ‘This is why I’m doing this.’”

— Sally McDonald

Since 2015, the organization has been fed cases from the Suffolk County Police Department and District Attorney’s office through a cloud-based computer software program, allowing the CVC to directly contact innocent victims to begin providing support under the direction of Mike Gunther, CVC’s director of advocacy and victim services. The cloud program has served to streamline a process it had been carrying out since 1999. Ahearn said the CVC has helped to recoup $5.5 million for Suffolk County crime victims from a county fund to cover unexpected costs for innocent victims, as some have health insurance costs or other expenses to cover in the aftermath of a traumatic incident. Currently, the CVC has between 2,500 and 3,000 cases it’s handling, and its founder said the organization is always in need of more case managers.

The group regularly sends advocates Diana Shuffler and Diana Guzman to Human Trafficking Intervention Court, a New York state initiative established to aid victims of human trafficking in every aspect of getting their life back on track, and put legal issues behind them. Prior to the program’s inception, Guzman said victims of human trafficking picked up for other crimes like prostitution were treated like criminals. The CVC even works with the FBI.

Sally McDonald, a certified therapist and victim advocate at the CVC who is passionate about the work  she does, said she has cases with victims ranging from 4 years old to adults in their 60s.

“It’s exciting — it’s so nice to see anybody do well, but especially a child,” she said of seeing someone’s life improve as a result of her work. “You feel like ‘This is why I’m doing this.’”

Ahearn stressed the importance of following up with victims and ensuring his or her traumatic incident is truly behind them.

“Whenever you’re dealing with any kind of violent crime or trauma, unless there are support services, those are individuals that are going to need help,” she said. “If they’re not getting the help they need … those kids whose families were victims of violent crime are going to gravitate toward who they believe is going to protect them, and in those communities that would be the ones that, believe it or not, are the perpetrators.”

“Whenever you’re dealing with any kind of violent crime or trauma, unless there are support services, those are individuals that are going to need help.”

— Laura Ahearn

The Ronkonkoma office features therapy rooms for all ages, including a child therapy room where kids are prepared for what to expect in a court setting, or play out personal trauma using a sandbox, toys or art therapy.

Sex offender monitoring

Megan’s Law gets its name from an incident in the mid-‘90s in which 7-year-old Megan Kanka from New Jersey was lured into a neighbor’s home, sexually assaulted and murdered. The culprit was a twice-convicted sex offender, and after a nationwide lobbying effort, Megan’s Law was passed in 1996 and required all 50 states to release information to the public about known convicted sex offenders.

Ahearn was one of those involved in the lobbying effort, and Parents for Megan’s Law was born. In 2014 the CVC implemented a new monitoring program to keep addresses and other important information about the county’s roughly 1,000 registered sex offenders current. Ahearn’s sex offender monitoring staff is comprised entirely of retired law enforcement officers, who regularly check up on the people on the list face-to-face to ensure their information is accurate and up to date.

The organization also has a Megan’s Law helpline as well as a tip line, should community members want to report anything related to a registered sex offender in their area.

Prevention

When describing the CVC’s prevention arm, Ahearn uses an analogy. Imagine you’re fishing, she says, and three separate times during the day you have to dive in the river to save people who were drowning as they headed downstream. How many times would you have to dive in the water to save a life before heading upstream to see why so many people are falling in the water and nearly drowning?

Led by prevention program manager Kim Malone, the CVC provides workshops for children, teens, parents and adults designed to empower them with knowledge and skills aimed at protecting against sexual abuse and abduction.

The CVC offers workshops for schools and organizations geared toward every age group.

To contact the Crime Victims Center call 631-689-2672 or visit www.parentsformeganslaw.org.

This story was updated Jan. 31 to correct the spelling of Laura Ahearn’s name.

By Elana Glowatz

Suffolk County is entering obscure territory this year as some sex offenders drop off the state registry and others have lost restrictions on where they can live.

Laura Ahearn has advocated for local governments to have the power to regulate where registered sex offenders live. File photo
Laura Ahearn has advocated for local governments to have the power to regulate where registered sex offenders live. File photo

It was exactly one year ago that the New York State Court of Appeals ruled that local laws restricting where sex offenders could live were invalid, following a lawsuit from a registered offender from Nassau County who challenged his own government’s rule that prohibited him from living within 1,000 feet from a school. Judge Eugene Pigott Jr. wrote in his decision that “a local government’s police power is not absolute” and is pre-empted by state law.

State regulations already prohibit certain sex offenders who are on parole or probation from living within 1,000 feet of a school or other child care facility, according to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, but the local laws went further. In Suffolk County, Chapter 745 made it illegal for all registered sex offenders — not just those on parole or probation — to live within a quarter mile of schools, day care centers, playgrounds or their victims. But following Pigott’s decision, that law, while still technically on the books, is no longer enforceable.

To make matters more complicated, Jan. 1 marked the beginning of the end for some of the lowest level sex offenders on the state registry.

Offenders are grouped into one of three levels based on their perceived risk of committing another sex crime. On the lowest rung, Level 1 offenders who have not received special designations for being violent, being repeat offenders or having a “mental abnormality or personality disorder” that makes the person “likely to engage in predatory sexually violent offenses,” according to the Division of Criminal Justice Services, are only included on the registry for 20 years from their conviction. The New York State correction law enacting that system has just turned 20 years old, meaning the earliest offenders added to the registry are beginning to drop off.

The Sex Offender Registration Act obligates Level 2 and Level 3 offenders, as well as those with the additional designations, to remain on the registry for life, although there is a provision under which certain Level 2 offenders can appeal to be removed after a period of 30 years.

At a recent civic association meeting in Port Jefferson Station, Laura Ahearn from the advocacy group Parents for Megan’s Law — which raises awareness about sex crime issues and monitors offenders — gave examples of offenders set to come off the registry this year, including a man who raped a 4-year-old girl, and another who raped and sodomized a woman.

But it doesn’t stop there.

“It is thousands over time that are going to drop off,” Ahearn said.

A database search of Level 1 offenders along the North Shore of Suffolk County turned up many offenders who had been convicted of statutory rape or possession of child pornography, and who had served little to no time in jail. However, there were more serious offenses as well.

“You know when an adult man or an adult woman rapes a 4-year-old, that is just shocking. That [should be] a lifetime registration.”
— Laura Ahearn

Some of the undesignated Level 1 offenders who were convicted shortly after the Sex Offender Registration Act was created include a Smithtown man, now 43, convicted of first-degree sexual abuse against a 19-year-old; a 61-year-old Rocky Point man who sexually abused a 12-year-old girl more than once; a Huntington man, now 40, who sexually abused an 11-year-old; and a Rocky Point man convicted of incest with a 17-year-old.

Ahearn’s group has argued that sex offenders are more likely to reoffend as time goes on. According to Parents for Megan’s Law, recidivism rates are estimated to be 14 percent after five years and 27 percent after 20 years.

One midnight in January, Suffolk County police arrested a 48-year-old man, later discovered to be a registered Level 1 sex offender, in Fort Salonga after the suspect was allegedly caught undressed inside a vehicle with a 14-year-old boy. Police reported at the time that the two arranged the meeting over a cellphone application and there had been sexual contact.

The man had been convicted of sexual misconduct with a 16-year-old girl in 2003 and was sentenced to six years of probation. His new charges included criminal sex act and endangering the welfare of a child.

“So it makes no sense logically” to let Level 1 offenders drop off the registry after 20 years, Ahearn said in Port Jefferson Station. She has advocated for the terms to be extended or to have offenders appeal to be removed from the registry, like Level 2 offenders can after 30 years, so it can be decided on a case-by-case basis.

It’s a “you-know-it-when-you-see-it kind of thing, because you know when an adult man or an adult woman rapes a 4-year-old, that is just shocking,” she said. “That [should be] a lifetime registration.”

Even if the offenders remain on the registry, the court ruling that struck down restrictions on where most offenders can live has made matters trickier.

Ahearn said the fact that multiple layers of local government had enacted restrictions contributed to the situation.

“What happened is it got out of control,” she said.

County and town laws previously restricted sex offenders from living near schools and playgrounds. File photo
County and town laws previously restricted sex offenders from living near schools and playgrounds. File photo

Below the Suffolk County level, for example, the Town of Brookhaven had its own restrictions that prohibited offenders from living within a quarter mile of schools, playgrounds or parks.

There are bills floating around the state government that would tighten restrictions on where certain sex offenders could live, but the only one that has gained traction is a bill state Sen. Michael Venditto (R-Massapequa) sponsored, along with state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport), that would return to local governments the power to regulate where offenders can reside.

“Local laws designed to protect children against registered sex offenders are enacted in response to unique conditions and concerns of specific communities and should act in complement with existing state law,” the bill’s summary read.

Although the bill passed the Senate last year, it died in the Assembly. But Venditto reintroduced his proposal this year.

For more information about sex offender laws or to search for sex offenders in a specific neighborhood, visit the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services at www.criminaljustice.ny.gov or the Parents for Megan’s Law group at www.parentsformeganslaw.org.