Legislation introduced in the City Council earlier this month could place new living restrictions on prior sex offenders, increasing the distance between them and local children.
The bill, authored by Councilman Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), prohibits Level 3 sex offenders — who have higher recidivism rates, according to the state Division of Criminal Justice Services — from living within 1,000 feet of any New York City park or school.
“This legislation represents a response to the concerns expressed by many of my constituents,” Addabbo said, adding that the primary anxiety is the proximity of prior sex offenders’ residences to local playgrounds.
Currently, there is no limit on how close prior sex offenders can live from areas where children congregate. Under New York State’s Sex Offender Registration Act, sex offenders are only mandated to register with the DCJS.
Since 2006, sex offenders’ residency information has been provided to local law enforcement agencies in the neighborhoods where sex offenders choose to reside post incarceration. The precincts can then include that information on the sex offender database, available to the public.
The need for residency restrictions, according to Addabbo, results from the fear that many offenders deemed high-risk have trouble resisting temptations.
Of the 2,114 sex offenders living in New York City, about 85 percent — who are considered Level 2 and Level 3 individuals with high re-offending rates — live within five blocks of a school. About 32 percent of those live two blocks or less from a school.
About two-thirds of imprisoned sex offenders committed crimes against children younger than 18 years of age, while 58 percent committed crimes against those younger than 13. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 52 percent of child molesters will re-offend.
“While I support the efforts of trying to rehabilitate certain individuals,” Addabbo said, “these statistics make it clear that the public, especially young children, need the protection of additional space between prior sex offenders living in their communities.”
Explaining that the 1,000-foot border is the maximum distance that can be imposed, Addabbo said he is open to discussion on the subject once his bill goes to committee, where it will be discussed and either approved or rejected. “I’m not looking to infringe on anyone’s civil rights or human rights,” he said.
Calls to the New York City chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union regarding the legislation’s potential imposition on offenders’ rights were not returned as of press time.
If Addabbo’s bill is passed, it won’t be retroactive, he said, meaning that those registered sex offenders currently living near schools would be permitted to continue residing in their homes.
For more information, visit the DCJS Web site, criminaljustice.state.ny.us.