By Chris McKenna
By Chris McKenna
Goshen — Orange County lawmakers are exploring alternatives after hearing the drawbacks to restricting where convicted sex offenders can live and work after prison, as 13 other New York counties have done.
They had drafted for discussion a replica of a law that neighboring Rockland County passed in January, which orders offenders to stay at least 1,000 feet away from schools, day-care centers and other places where children congregate.
But two county officials advised them last week that such rules might prove counterproductive by cutting offenders off from their families and forcing them out of more populated areas where they would be more likely to get psychiatric treatment and social services.
Alan Seidman, the Salisbury Mills Republican who initiated the proposal, said yesterday that he now has concerns about isolating an offender "from the support network and social services he needs so that there's not a repeat offense."
"We want to remove temptation, but we want to keep them in treatment," he said.
Seidman said the county will look into other ways to prevent sex offenders from repeating their crimes while retaining the Rockland approach as an option. Other county officials, including District Attorney Frank Phillips, will be asked to address lawmakers next month, he said.
Orange County has 275 registered sex offenders, although county officials believe only a quarter of all offenders register with authorities. One immediate goal taking shape is to "make sure they're all registered and checking in with their probation officers," Seidman said.
The Rockland law bans sex offenders from "child safety zones," defined as places within 1,000 feet of a school, child-care facility, park, playground, youth center or public swimming pool. Breaking the law is a misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine and up to three months in jail for the first offense and a $1,000 fine and a year behind bars thereafter.
The law allows several exceptions, none of which apply if an offender "initiates or maintains contact with a minor" within a child safety zone.
A similar law in upstate Schenectady County has riled town officials, who fear it will drive sex offenders from cities to suburban and rural areas, where the distances between schools and other restricted areas is greater.
According to published reports, leaders of at least five towns were considering their own restrictions to prevent an influx of sex offenders.
Schenectady is one of six adjacent counties around and north of Albany that have enacted sex offender residency laws, according to an organization opposed to such laws. Both Long Island counties — Nassau and Suffolk — have also done so. In the Hudson Valley, Putnam and Rockland counties were the first to adopt such restrictions.