Part of Megan’s Law set to expire

Some sex offenders could be dropped from registry

By John Zick

CORNING | One of the state’s most effective tools in fighting sexual
predators has reached its 11th hour.

On Jan. 21, a provision in Megan’s Law, legislation that helps
law-enforcement officials keep track of sex offenders, will allow all
Level 1 and Level 2 sex offenders to have their names removed from the
state registry after 10 years.

By law, sex offenders deemed dangerous by the state are required to
register so law enforcement officials can keep track them. There are
three levels of sex offenders, with Level 3 (high-risk) being classified
as the most dangerous, and Level 1 (low-risk) and Level 2 (medium-risk)
are considered less of a threat.

If new legislation is not enacted by Jan. 21, nearly 3,000 sex offenders
in the state would have their names removed from the state registry by
the summer, according to a release from state Assemblyman Jim Bacalles,

“I want members of both sides of the aisle to put aside partisan
differences and think about the women and children of New York,” Bacalles
said. “Extending the Megan’s Law registration requirement makes sense as
the right thing to do.”

Both Republicans and Democrats have called for a renewal of the
legislation and also to add provisions that will make Megan’s Law
stronger. Today, the state assembly will be back in session, and a report
on its Web site said the assembly “will pass legislation that would
immediately stop sex offenders from being removed from the state
sex-offender registry.”

By passing legislation today, the assembly would allow lawmakers time to
fine-tune permanent legislation, which both parties have called for.

Gov. George Pataki has also called for tougher laws against sex
offenders, and the governor has unveiled the following five-step plan to
do so.

Prevent the release of sexually violent predators.
Impose longer sentences for those who commit sexually violent crimes.
Strengthen Megan’s Law
Require all criminals to give a DNA sample.
End the statute of limitations on rape, sexual assault and other crimes.

As partisan members of the state senate and assembly work to enact
tougher laws against sex offenders, local law enforcement officials hope
for action sooner rather than later.

“I think this Megan’s Law is very important,” said Corning City Police
Lt. Richard Swan. “I think it needs to be fine-tuned a little bit, and by
fine-tuned I mean strengthened.”

Swan is the Corning Police Department’s authority on the subject as he is
responsible for keeping track of the city’s sex offenders. Swan said
there are 25-30 sex offenders living in Corning, and about 15-20 are
Level 1 and Level 2 offenders.

“Once they’ve committed an act like that and they’re on the registry,
they should remain on the registry,” said Swan.

Swan added that he’d especially like to see tougher laws for Level 1 and
Level 2 offenders because those classifications have “mild” limitations.
He said that Level 1 and Level 2 offenders only have to check in once a
year if they maintain the same address, name and appearance.

Local school officials have also called for a quick and strong reaction
to Megan’s Law.

“Obviously, our No. 1 job here is to protect kids and ensure their
safety,” Severn Elementary School Principal Jeff Delorme said. “I can’t
believe that any politician would vote not only in renewing the law but
in strengthening it.”

Delorme said he is concerned about the possibility of Level 1 and Level 2
offenders disappearing from the state’s radar screen, but he also
expressed worry about Level 3 offenders because of their freedom. Level 3
offenders, if specific guidelines are not written into probation and
parole rules, are allowed free rein of city parks and schools.

Delorme said he is “real supportive” of new legislation that would keep
sex offenders away from schools.

Copyright © 2006, The Leader

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