The Artvoice Probe Triggers Action by Buffalo Officials on Sex Offenders

A June 9 Artvoice expose concerning the dispersal of seven registered sex offenders from two group homes in West Seneca has prompted quick action on the part of elected representatives in Buffalo, where two of the offenders were relocated.
Senator Tim Kennedy of Buffalo, Erie County Legislator Peter Savage and Delaware District Councilman Joel Feroleto put in a formal request asking state Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott to investigate whether New York violated the terms of a conditional permit issued by the city in dumping the offenders in Buffalo.
After reading of the relocation in Artvoice, area residents became outraged that Level 2 sex offenders Russel Bennelthum and James Loder, were moved from a group home in West Seneca and into a facility run by Community Services of the Developmentally Disabled on Rosemary Avenue.
These frustrations are all too familiar; the West Seneca community expressed similar concerns for years when seven sex offenders, including Bennelthum and Loder, were placed in two group homes on Leydecker Road. Neighbors there made it clear that these offenders were not welcome, particularly because the homes they were placed in were steps away from a local park and playground.
On Rosemary Avenue, the scene is similar; a school for kids with learning, social and emotional needs sits less than a mile from where the sex offenders now reside.
“As a Senator and more importantly as a father, I find the relocation of these sex offenders to this quiet Buffalo neighborhood deeply troubling. One of these offenders was convicted of crimes against two young boys, and yet he has been placed in a facility that is within walking distance of three schools,” said Kennedy. “It is disturbing that New York continues to house these offenders with some of our most vulnerable residents, and in close proximity to local schools no less.”
In their letter, Kennedy, Savage and Feroleto note that when the Office for Persons with Developmental Disabilities facility on Rosemary Avenue opened, the permit granted by the city required the location to be used as temporary housing for developmentally disabled persons, meaning residents were limited to 90- 135 day stays. Any resident staying for a longer period of time, or a person who is not classified with a developmental disability, would appear to be in violation of the conditional permit.
“The relocation of two Level 2 sex offenders to this strong North Buffalo residential neighborhood, in close proximity to a school, playground, and child day care is completely unacceptable,” said Savage. “I share in the outrage expressed by neighborhood residents and call upon New York State to immediately reverse this terribly ill-advised decision.”
Kennedy, Savage and Feroleto also ask the state to investigate whether New York followed proper guidelines for notifying authorities and residents when relocating the two sex offenders. Some neighbors complained that they were unaware that these offenders were moved within close proximity to their children’s schools and day care.
Kennedy is currently a co-sponsor of legislation that would prohibit sex offenders from being placed in residences operated by the Office of Mental Health or the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities. This legislation passed the Senate this year, but failed to make it to the floor of the Assembly.
“We are gravely concerned that the relocation of these sex offenders did not follow proper notification requirements to local law enforcement and to the community,” the lawmakers stated in the letter. “Additionally, we are alarmed that this facility may now be in violation of the operating permit granted by the City of Buffalo. We respectfully request your full attention into the process behind placing sex offenders in this facility.
“(I)t is the state’s duty to notify the proper channels, especially in light of the potential harm sex offenders present to the community. A dangerous precedent is being set if notification procedures were not followed,” they added.
In West Seneca, quick action by the town Council and state Assemblyman Michael Kearns led to the eviction of the seven sex offenders.
And in Lackawanna, the city Council last week passed a measure to post the names, addresses, criminal records and photographs of registered sex offenders living there on the city’s official website.
While officials in West Seneca, Lackawanna and now Buffalo have taken a very proactive stance regarding the state’s policy of dumping sexual predators on the unsuspecting public, Niagara Falls officials have taken a different approach. There, Mayor Paul Dyster has said, “They’ve got to live somewhere.”
Consequently, Niagara Falls has the highest concentration of registered sex offenders of any city in New York.
The international tourist destination is currently home to 177 registered sex offenders, one for every 285 residents.

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