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Suffolk police plan targets convicted sex offenders

Paul LaRocco

Suffolk police are expected Thursday to announce the closure of East End trailers that house homeless sex offenders, as part of a plan that will involve the "most intense monitoring" of convicted sex offenders in the nation, a county legislator said.

Chief of Department James Burke will appear before the legislature's Public Safety Committee to detail a comprehensive plan to more closely monitor all 1,000 sex offenders registered in the county.

While aides to County Executive Steve Bellone declined to release details of the plan, Legis. Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) said Bellone suggested to him that the homeless sex offenders would be relocated in a way that wouldn't burden any one community. The county houses about 40 homeless offenders in trailers in Riverhead and Westhampton.

"This plan does not involve any clustering," Schneiderman said after speaking to Bellone. "And he reiterated that closing the trailers is part of his plan."

Schneiderman said the administration told him that the plan would bring "the most intense monitoring of sex offenders of anywhere in the country."

Legis. Kate Browning (WF-Shirley), chairwoman of the Public Safety Committee, said that under the new plan, "every police officer will know about the sex offender in their sectors."

Bellone pledged at a news conference last May to relocate all homeless sex offenders by the end of 2012, calling their placement in stationary trailers "terrible public policy." He didn't meet the deadline, but aides said he was preparing a more comprehensive plan in conjunction with victims' advocates such as Parents for Megan's Law.

At a public forum on the issue in Riverhead Wednesday night, East End officials said Bellone will face a challenge in getting legislative approval for any plan that distributes homeless sex offenders to other parts of the county. "This will be a test of the county executive's power," said Riverhead GOP Supervisor Sean Walter.

Browning said Wednesday that even with the new plan, she remains concerned about how the county will deal with homeless sex offenders.

She recalled that several years ago, lawmakers rejected a proposal by former County Executive Steve Levy to give homeless offenders cash vouchers to find their own housing.

The county legislature later approved an alternative that would have created six mini-shelters at industrial parks spread throughout Suffolk. The plan was never implemented.

"I'm worried about anything that relies on vouchers," Browning said. "But there simply isn't going to be a perfect plan."