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Legislators OK sex offender law

County legislators overwhelmingly approved a local law in continued efforts to protect children from convicted sexual predators, despite dissenting legislators' fears that costly legal action could follow the passing of the law as it has in other counties in the state.

By a 31-vote majority, legislators approved Local Law F, which establishes residency restrictions on Level 2 and 3 convicted offenders in the county, 33-2.

The law, set to take effect Sept. 1, prohibits Level 2 and 3 sex offenders from residing within 1,000 feet of areas that would provide them easy access to potential victims, the legislation states.

Those areas are defined as public or nonpublic elementary or secondary schools and/or licensed or registered child day care centers.

Violation of the law is punishable as a misdemeanor.

Legislators Marlene Prentiss (R-Albany) and Berne Democrat Alexander Gordon voted down the legislation.

Gordon was among legislators that expressed initial concerns at the presentation of the legislation in May. Originally calling for a 2,000-foot buffer, the law would drive offenders into the suburbs and respective hill towns, some legislators argued.

Gordon made the same case last Monday, saying the new restrictions would be sure to drive some offenders into his district.

"In the remote locations of some of the properties in my area, if a crime starts, a crime is committed," he said, noting thinned police coverage in rural areas.

Gordon raised other concerns about the legislation, including possible legal action against the county, mainly in the form of constitutional objections.

Recently, similar legislation in the city of Binghamton was dropped after legislators found themselves pinned against a potentially costly legal action challenging the constitutionality of residence restrictions on sex offenders. Shortly after city leaders passed the restrictions, the law was repealed, he said.

Similar legislation has passed in Saratoga, Nassau and Suffolk counties. Last year, residents in Malta were dismayed to discover a number of convicted sex offenders taking up residence in a hotel near their neighborhood, prompting many discussions with legislators and town officials in that town.

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