MAHOPAC, N.Y.— Parents in the Lake Casse Park District and surrounding vicinity are troubled by the news that a convicted sex offender has moved into the neighborhood and are trying to raise awareness.
Mahopac News learned that Erik Dean Reifschneider, 43, moved from Kansas to Russ Street in Mahopac recently after serving nearly 13 years in state prison. According to the state Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), Reifschneider has the designation of “sexually violent offender” and has a risk level of 2. The DCJS website states that there are three risk levels that are based upon an offender’s risk of committing another sex crime and harm to the community: Level 1 (low), Level 2 (moderate), and Level 3 (high). As a general rule, the sentencing court determines an offender’s risk level at the time of release from custody.
According to the DCJS, in May 1997, Reifschneider was convicted of aggravated criminal sodomy with a child—a crime that took place in October 1996.
Carmel Police Chief Mike Cazzari said officers went into the neighborhood where Reifschneider resides and passed out fliers with his mugshot and other information about his crime.
“We spoke to people on the street and did our due diligence to keep people informed,” the chief said. “We know there is a daycare and an elementary school, a beach and playground and community center in that area.”
But Cazzari said that Reifschneider is not on parole or probation so as long he fulfills his obligations as a registered sex offender, there is little law enforcement can do.
“He did his time in prison and is not violating the law, so we don’t have any say,” he said. “He has a constitutional right [to be there] and we can’t violate it.”
One Lake Casse parent, who asked not to be identified, said she realizes that Reifschneider is within his rights to live there, but it is still disconcerting.
“It’s common sense that you don’t go and harass him,” said the parent of two boys, ages 6 and 7. “We just want to know what the rules are. People are surprised because it’s so close to a school (Fulmar Elementary) and we have a park right near here. All the parents at Fulmar are concerned about it. There are also children on that street (Russ Street).
“I am concerned because some of my other friends have young kids, that same age as his [2-year-old] victim,” she added. “What does this mean for us in the summertime? We want to educate everyone and make sure they are aware.”
According to the DCJS website, the Sex Offender Registration Act does not restrict where a registered sex offender may live. However, if the offender is on parole or probation supervision, other New York State laws may limit the offender from living within 1,000 feet of a school or other facility caring for children. However, Reifschneider is not on parole or probation, so those restrictions would not apply to him.
As a Level 2 sex offender, Reifschneider will remain on the sex offender list for life. According to the DCJS, he must report annually where he lives by signing and returning an annual verification form within 10 days after receiving it; he must report every three years in person to the local police agency to have a current photograph taken; and he must provide in writing his internet service providers, internet screen names and email accounts.
“What is going to make him stop?” asked another Lake Casse parent. “When the kids get off the bus, the bus stop is right near his house. This is not good and it’s making everyone uneasy. We can’t have this. You can’t even have your kids play in the front yard. Never mind strangers, now you have to worry about the guy next door.”
The parent said he’s talked to his children about the situation
“I’ve educated my kids,” he said. “I showed them pictures of the guy and the car he drives. I even showed it to my youngest and told him, this is a bad guy and if he comes near you, scream, run. There are a lot of kids in this area. It only takes two seconds for something to happen. We just have to be very vigilant.”