The Sex Offenders Next Door

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A controversy is growing in South Ozone Park that shows the challenge state and city officials face when trying to find shelter for sex offenders and others coming out of prison.

It was learned that more than 20 sex offenders are living in a shelter 1,000 feet away from PS 124, according to the state sex offender registry.

The Skyway Shelter, on South Conduit Avenue, is a men-only homeless shelter that used to be a family facility until last year. Some of the sex offenders residing there have been convicted of violent crimes and offenses against minors.

City Councilman Ruben Wills told our reporter the city Department of Homeless Services did not live up to its assurances to the community that it would try to keep sex offenders out of the facility.

He said the state is “basically using our children as cheese on a mousetrap.”

That is an exaggeration. These men have to live somewhere. There are states where nothing is done for people coming out of prison. With no jobs or money, they wind up sleeping under bridges.

Wills’ office raised the sex-offender issue at a Community Board 10 meeting earlier this month.

Heather Janik, the DHS press secretary, said it has to provide shelter for these men.

“Pursuant to court orders, Homeless Services is under legal mandate to provide shelter to all homeless individuals or eligible families regardless of their criminal background, including sex offender status,” she said.

That’s understandable. But the DHS doesn’t perform background checks on shelter applicants. Instead it relies on self-reports or reports from the state Division of Parole.

For the sake of the community, DHS should do a minimal background check. It should know something about the men and women living in its shelters. And it should be checking the sex offender registry and notifying the nearby community when a sex offender moves in.

The DHS has access to the sex offender registry.

For budgetary reasons, southeast Queens has once again become a dumping ground. What was once a motel became a shelter for families and now a men’s shelter that has housed sex offenders and ex-cons.

They need to live somewhere, but this is a bad choice.

Posted 5:26 pm, September 26, 2012
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Reader feedback

Paul from rotterdam says:
Well, once again politicians are contributing to the fear mongering and hysteria that accompanies any news about "sex offenders". The fact is, your children are more in danger of being molested by a family member or a close neighbor than a registrant. I started a support group for registered former sex offenders and procured a list of address from the online registry. I hopped on my bike and visited all their homes. Something I noticed was that on the streets in front of many of their homes, there were children playing, usually monitored by an adult, some of them belonged to the offenders themselves. As I rode past three elementary schools, there was not a single child on the playground. This proved to me that the restriction of living near a school or day care is a total waste of legislation and taxpayer dollars. Are not the day cares and schools doing a sufficient job protecting my children? On my drive to work in the mornings, when I pass a bus stop, there is usually a parent standing watch, so again, restrictions are a waste. The real criminal is a parent who drops their child off somewhere unattended and unmonitored like the John Walsh's wife did at the mall.
Sept. 29, 2012, 3:10 pm
ShellyStow says:
Paul has covered most of the bases. The risk of sexual harm to children is overwhelmingly from those not on a registry, those with no prior arrests for crimes of a sexual nature, those with a close and usually intimate relationship with the child.
Children, especially those age twelve and under, are sexually molested in their own homes more often than at any other location. The greatest percentage of molesters of young children is made up of close family members and members of the extended family, followed closely by trusted family friends and acquaintances, those you would open your door to without a second's hesitation.
Depending on the child's age, strangers comprise between two and five percent of sexual molesters, and for all ages, the percentage of molesters who have already been convicted of a sexual crime and are on a sex offender regisry is below one percent.
Sources: DOJ; FBI; NCMEC (although you have to hunt and dig and do arithmetic to get to it there)
Sept. 29, 2012, 4:10 pm

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