Sex Offender Tuesdays Give NFPD A Handle on City's Sickest Residents
By Mike Hudson
In Niagara Falls, sex offender Tuesdays is a sad duty performed each week by Det. Patty McCune and her colleagues, who are responsible for keeping tabs on the city's large pervert population.
“Tuesday is sex offender Tuesday. Level 3 offenders –who are the highest risk -- have to come in every 90 days for face to face check-in,” McCune said. “They make appointments, they have to update their photos. Level 1 and Level 2 offenders have to come in at least once a year, face to face, and we update their photos.”The high number of sex offenders living in the city results in extra work for the police and greater costs for the beleaguered taxpayers of Niagara Falls.
“It’s absolutely an extra burden for the department,” she said.
As of last week, there were 119 registered sex offenders residing in the city, down some from the 154 who lived here in March when this newspaper launched a campaign to drive them out of the neighborhood surrounding Niagara Street Elementary School and, in particular, the flophouse known as the Midtown Hotel, just down the street from the school.
Still, even the 119 figure represents one offender for every 431 city residents in this city of under 50,000, the highest ratio of any similarly-sized municipality in the state.
Unfortunately, many of the perverts, rapists, child molesters and other scumbags who once congregated around the school simply scuttled like cockroaches to other locations around the city. The NFPD keeps close tabs on such moves, McCune said.
“Once a year we do Operation Guardian Angel where we actually go out and knock on the doors of Level 2 and Level 3’s,” she said. “The U.S. Marshals help us, and we only had a few that were not in locations, which was very good. And I’ll be getting warrants for their arrest.”
Under the state correction law, a sex offender not notifying local police of a change of address is guilty of a felony, as is not coming in to update their pictures.
Those who have kept tabs on the city’s deviate population over the years have noted that many sex offenders living in Niagara Falls have come from out of town and even from out of state.
“You have to notify the state you’re coming into that you are a registered sex offender in the state you’re coming from,” McCune said. “It’s their responsibility to notify the state. There’s a hearing before a judge.”
But that’s cold comfort for the local police agencies that have to deal with these, according to police chief Bryan DalPorto.
“When they come here or are placed here for whatever reason, it becomes our problem,” he said. “Once they’re off parole or probation, they can live wherever they want.”
What is it about Niagara Falls that seems to draw sexual predators here like moths to a flame? According to State Sen. George Maziarz, the problem can be summed up in one word – housing.
“The core problem in Niagara Falls is the pathetic state of the housing stock, which drives down property values and rents throughout the city,” Maziarz said. “I’ll be meeting with the state Parole Board later this month, but they have their own budgetary concerns and the simple fact is that they can put these offenders here at the lowest possible cost.”
Maziarz has had a long-standing interest in the warehousing of sex offenders and other dangerous criminals in places like Niagara Falls. Several years ago, he tried to introduce legislation that would house Level 3 sex offenders in unused state prisons, but the bill was never taken up by the Assembly.
“You’ve got a mayor who doesn’t care about this problem in all,” Maziarz said, citing Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster’s famous comment that sex offenders “had to live somewhere.”
“You’ve got a city inspections department with a dozen employees and landlords begging for any kind of tenants they can get,” he added.
Last month, Maziarz got a Senate bill passed that would allow Niagara County to adopt a stern local law limiting residency options for registered sex offenders to outside a 1,500-foot circle around schools, parks, athletic fields, and buildings and land connected to daycare centers.
And last week, the Niagara Falls Reporter learned that Maziarz has fast-tracked a bill in the Senate that would greatly limit the locations where sex offenders can live, particularly in cities like Niagara Falls. The bill is authored in the Assembly by an occasional political nemesis of the senator, Robin Schimminger.
Under the terms of the state's 2007 civil confinement law, dangerous sexual predators who have what is called an incurable "mental abnormality" that causes their deviant behavior, are permitted to re-enter society rather than spend the rest of their lives in mental institutions.
The legislation was proposed by then-governor Eliot Spitzer and backed enthusiastically by Democrats in the legislature, including former Assemblywoman Francine Del Monte, who co-sponsored the bill along with her leader, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
The controversial law has already resulted in a number of cases in which sexual predators have struck again, the "confinement" to which they are subjected being no barrier to their uncontrolled desire to have sex with children. This complicates federal laws designed to monitor sex offenders sent to live in the general population.
In 1996, the Federal government enacted what is now known as Megan’s Law. This required states to maintain a searchable database to keep the public and law enforcement up-to-date on sex offenders within the community. The law was passed in memory of Megan Kanka, who was lured into her neighbor’s home with the promise of a puppy.
Megan was sexually assaulted and murdered by a two-time convicted sex offender who was previously convicted of attacking a five-year-old and an attempted sexual assault on a seven-year-old.<br>
In Niagara County, the database is maintained by the county Sheriff’s Department, which has taken a very proactive stand on keeping track of the burgeoning sex offender population in Niagara Falls and throughout the county.
In addition to maintaining the database that will pinpoint offenders living within one mile of any address in the county, the department offers instant email updates when a registered offender changes address.
“Offenders move frequently, so instead of having to check the maps on a weekly basis, the best way to stay informed is to take advantage of our free email alert system,” Sheriff James Voutour said.
The department’s website address is www.niagarasheriff.com.
|Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr.||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||
JUN 18, 2013