COLONIE: County tackles sex offender laws

Albany County legislators will look to federal sources and Dutchess County as examples as they form a bi-partisan committee to look at where convicted sex offenders who have done their time can and can't live.

County Legislative Minority Leader Christine Benedict, R-Albany, and Majority Leader Frank Commisso, D-Albany, have made public their intent to work together on the issue. At last month's legislative meeting, Benedict proposed the lawmakers form a committee to explore their options after attempts to strengthen sex offender laws have failed to materialize.

Benedict's legislative district is home to five hotels on a stretch of Central Avenue that have housed many post-release sex offenders, she said. Of those hotels, three are near residential areas and organizations where children are present.

People's back yards abut some of these hotels. I have been approached by some people about what we are going to do, Benedict said. "It's a big issue in every county, not just Albany County."

Last summer, the Legislature passed Local Law F, which established residency restrictions for Level 2 and 3 convicted offenders. The law prohibits those offenders from living within 1,000 feet of areas that would provide them easy access to potential victims. Those areas were defined as public or nonpublic elementary or secondary schools and/or licensed or registered child-care centers.

However, since going into effect Sept. 1 of last year, legislators have found holes in the restriction.

Holes that include the fact that Central Avenue's hotels and some churches fall within the 1,000-foot mark from a convicted sex offender. Legislators explored including religious institutions within the scope of the law, but stalled when questions of constitutionality arose.

Benedict said she hopes the proposed committee would lead to action on these issues and more.

Benedict said she has been talking with Dutchess County legislators who formulated a comprehensive plan to re-introduce convicted sex offenders back into their communities under a more regulated system.

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