FORT EDWARD — By an overwhelming majority, the Washington County Board of Supervisors on Friday repealed a local law restricting where sex offenders may live.
The county-wide 2007 law stipulated that all sex offenders could not reside or work within 1,000 feet of schools, child care facilities, parks, playgrounds and other places where children gather.
But detractors of the local law said that its restrictiveness was unconstitutional, resulted in higher costs for Social Services and Probation departments, and drove sex offenders to rural areas, doing more harm than good.
“If an ex-con is not rehabilitated, he is going to find some way to do his horrible deeds no matter where he lives,” said the Rev. James Peterson, the only person who appeared at a public hearing on Friday to speak to the board regarding the law.
The pastor of the Granville Baptist Church and First Baptist Church in Whitehall said he was in favor of repealing the local law based on his experiences with a handful of sex offenders and their families. The residency restrictiveness of the county law could be unfairly restrictive to those released from prison and trying to put their lives back in order, he added.
“You cannot rehabilitate these people,” argued Hartford Town Supervisor Dana Haff, who cast the lone vote against repealing the county law.
He was outvoted by 15 to 1.
Similar local laws restricting residencies had previously been repealed in eight of 17 counties in favor of a less restrictive state law.
The state Sex Offender Registration Act does not restrict where a registered sex offender may live. If the offender is under parole or probation supervision, however, other state laws may limit the offender from living within 1,000 feet of a school or other facility that cares for children.
A local law remains in effect in Warren County. The law restricts Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders – those of moderate or high risk to repeat the offense – from living or working within 1,000 feet of certain facilities where children gather.
“Right now, we’re at the very, very early stages of just starting to talk about it,” said Warren County Attorney Paul Dusek. “We probably should take a look at it.”
One person stood up and made a deference.
Go Rev. James Peterson!!!