SOMERS, N.Y. - State Sen. Terrence Murphy is calling on his colleagues in the Assembly to pass “common sense” legislation geared at keeping convicted sex offenders away from parks, churches, schools and their victims.
Murphy made his rallying cry last Wednesday at Koegel Park in Somers, a passive recreation area with several trails and a picnic area, which is located about 20 feet away from the home of a level two sex offender. Murphy said legislation, which has passed in the Senate, would give municipalities the option to restrict residency for sex offenders. Currently, that is decided by the state, which has no residence restrictions for sex offenders.
Similarly, a separate piece of legislation proposed by Murphy would prohibit level two and three sex offenders from living within 1,500 feet of their victims. These areas would be called “victim safety zones.” Level two offenders are criminals with “moderate risk of repeat offense” and level three offenders have a “high risk of repeat offense” and are a “threat to public safety,” according to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.
Despite passing in the Republican-controlled Senate, Murphy said the bills have repeatedly died in the Democrat-controlled Assembly.
“The New York State Assembly is playing politics with our kids. Kids that have been victims,” Murphy said. “These are common sense measures that would be absolutely pertinent to make sure that we can protect all of our kids.”
Somers Town Supervisor Rick Morrissey agreed, saying the state legislature should be doing everything it can to protect its “most precious resources.”
“This is very important legislation and we here in Somers welcome it,” Morrissey said.
Murphy, who represents the 40th Senate District, introduced the legislation in February 2015 after a level three sex offender in Putnam County was permitted to move back next door to one of his victims, following his release from prison in 2011. The sex offender was released from prison after serving approximately 16 months in jail. Following his release, the offender, whose victims were eight and nine years old at the time the abuse took place, was permitted to reside next door to one of his victims. Murphy said the bill continues to fail because too much consideration is being given to the criminals rather than the victims.
Yorktown Town Supervisor Michael Grace called the laws a “no-brainer” and said the issue should be non-partisan.
“The number one role of government at every level is public safety, and public safety often requires a minor infringement on somebody's otherwise protected rights,” Grace said. “This type of legislation is not a huge burden on anyone's rights.”
The 2016 legislative session wrapped up in June. It will resume in January 2017.