Communities on sex offenders: Level 1, level 2, level 3? The distinctions may be crucial within the justice system, but out in the delis, doughnut shops and town meeting halls, molesters are molesters and public thought about how to handle their presence in the community is pretty unified. They approve of the move and then some. The older people are ruining them. In North Tonawanda, the city attorney is writing a local law that would put a quarter-mile protection zone around all schools, daycare centers, parks and playgrounds.
Karen Smith, who has the job of managing Level 3 offenders there, thinks about city geography and suspects enough quarter-mile do-not-enter circles drawn can be drawn on the city map to make North Tonawanda distinctly inhospitable to sex offenders. Factor them in and he figures the town would be pretty well covered. Quietly, municipal attorneys have been poring over state and case law trying to decide what the outer limits of legality might be.
All of the sudden, few want to be left out of the wave — or be knocked over by it because they were last to write their own law. The question becomes how far can you go?
How far do you want to go? The City of Binghamton previously passed a local law setting a quarter-mile zone around child-centered places and got sued by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of 15 sex offenders. To settle the suit, Binghamton withdrew the law and is rewriting it to declare 1,foot zones, the same as state law provides for certain Level 3 offenders. The difference is that Binghamton will apply the limit to all Level 3 and Level 2 offenders — just like Lockport did.
It was a constitutional issue that was raised. It became moot only because Binghamton withdrew the law. Like anyone else, sex offenders can plead to less-serious offenses, then take a watered-down conviction into the assessment process with them. Several times Collins referenced the case of convicted pedophile J.
Thurston, a well-known youth hockey coach, continued to live on Rogers Avenue, down the street from Washington Hunt Elementary School, after completing a six-month jail term for sex crimes against minors in Facing up to four years in prison for violating probation, Thurston committed suicide.
SOhopeful International, a national advocacy group that rose in response to moves in other states to limit the rights of convicted sex offenders, would say the Thurstons of the world are fewer and farther between than most people realize. Executive Director Carolyn Ferguson says the municipal rush to ostracize and possibly banish offenders is like an arms race. A study by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction showed a recidivism rate of 8 percent after 10 years.
A New York State Corrections study showed a rate of 6 percent after nine years. The more out in the open and discussed it is, the more diligent people will be.