ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed new restrictions on convicted sex offenders Monday.

But an activist who played a key role in the passage of Megan's Law countered that the measure "doesn't go far enough."

In an amendment to his proposed state budget, Cuomo called for restricting sex offenders who victimized children ages 13 and younger from traveling or living within 1,000 feet of schools.

He contended that restriction on level 2 and 3 offenders — the two highest-risk categories — would "help secure neighborhoods across the state."

The proposal would also prohibit sex offenders who attacked young children from moving into shelters that house families.

The proposal was billed by Cuomo as closing what he called a loophole that has existed since the state's highest court effectively upended residency-restriction laws enacted by 117 local governments when it struck down a statute in Nassau County.

The Court of Appeals reasoned that state law superseded the local laws dealing with sex offenders.

 

NOT FAR ENOUGH

But Laura Ahearn, a lawyer who is the director of Parents for Megan's Law, said sex offenders whose victims are ages 14 and older are potentially just as dangerous as the ones Cuomo would keep away from schools.

Ahearn said it is "just common sense" that a convicted rapist, regardless of the age of his victim, "should not be within daily eye-contact view" of children.

She also noted the Cuomo proposal would not extend to Level 1 offenders, considered by the state to be the lowest risk.

"We have a Level 1 in Nassau County who forcibly raped a 4-year-old," Ahearn said. "There is something drastically wrong with our risk-assessment process in New York state."

As for Cuomo showing new interest in the issue, she added, "it's good that this is finally on the governor's radar screen because our arguments have been falling on deaf ears in Albany since 2015."

Cuomo administration officials did not reply to requests for comment.

 

TRACKING ISSUES

The case that led to the repeal of local residency laws involved a Long Island man, Michael Diack, who was given a low risk assessment after being convicted of possessing child pornography.

The lawyer who prevailed in that challenge, Kathy Manley of Albany, said Monday she was disappointed by Cuomo's proposal, contending the effort could leave some convicts homeless and thus impede the ability of police to monitor them.

"There is no empirical evidence that residency restrictions help to protect anybody," Manley said.

In dealing with incarcerated sex offenders about to complete their sentences but thought to still have predatory tendencies, state officials can move to have them civilly confined rather than released, she said.

 

25,000 HIGHEST RISK

Ahearn's group favors more sweeping proposals called for in legislation authored by Sen. Tom Croci (R-Sayville) and Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (R-Sag Harbor).

Such legislation, she said, typically wins support from the Senate but faces an uphill battle in the Assembly.

According to the State Division of Criminal Justice Services, New York's Sex Offender Registry listed 40,466 individuals as of Jan. 31, including 296 whose addresses were given as "homeless."

Of the total, nearly 25,000 were listed in the two highest-risk classifications.

Ahearn, who has sought to strengthen the registration requirements for more than 20 years, said only about a third of all sex offenders fall under probation or parole supervision.

 

Email Joe Mahoney:

jmahoney@cnhi.com

 

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