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Sen. Funke, Penfield leaders push to have say in where sex offenders live

(WHAM photo)

Penfield, N.Y. - Local leaders in Penfield and other towns used to have say over where convicted sex offenders can live. Now, they want that control back.

This week, the New York State Senate passed a bill, for the second time, seeking to change an appeals court ruling that said only state law can mandate where sex offenders can live.

Senator Rich Funke is now calling for the Assembly and the governor to change this law.

"No two communities are the same,” he said. “No two children are the same. And to have one New York State law, an overarching law, affecting sex offenders in the state is probably not the way to go. It probably should be up to your local community to make those decisions."

It’s a move Penfield Town Supervisor Tony LaFountain hopes passes, so it can enact its own law.

"This is something that is important not only for Penfield community, but also other communities in the state of New York," LaFountain said.

In 2015, a level three sex offender moved 200 feet from Penfield’s Veteran’s Memorial Park. This is where hundreds of children play, including Molly Anderson’s son and daughter.

"We want to teach them responsibility and independence for outside," she said, "but you just never know who's going to be lurking around the corner."

That incident caused the town to draft its own measure called the "Penfield Child Safety Act," requiring level two and three sex offenders to stay 2,000 feet from playgrounds, parks, town facilities and daycares. The state requirement in is 1,000 feet.

"I’m happy that the town knows it's families, and wants to protect its families first and foremost," Anderson said.

But that proposal is sitting in a state committee because of an appeals court ruling that states local governments must follow state laws, not their own.

Assemblyman Mark Johns is introducing the bill in the Assembly.

"It's inconceivable that we wouldn't bring it up for a vote," he said.

Anderson has only one concern when it comes to allowing local governments to have control on where sex offenders live.

"One town having a lot of restrictions, and then pushing that group of people into one other town, and then that town gets the brunt of those individuals," Anderson said.

Penfield’s supervisor said the board would address those concerns.

"I’m sensitive with that as well,” he said. “I know our board is sensitive to that, and that will be part of our dialogue that we would have before any vote is made."

LaFountain said the town plans to start an online petition to let residents' voices be heard in Albany.

Lawmakers hope to get bi-partisan support and pass the measure at the end of this legislative session.

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