Tonawanda News

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October 4, 2012

County leaders don't repeal sex offender law

Tonawanda News — LOCKPORT — After a sparsely attended but angst-filled public hearing, county legislative leaders decided Tuesday to put off repeal of the 2008 Pedophile-Free Child Safety Zone Act.

The county law has been targeted due to a series of court rulings around New York state, all striking down local laws that attempt to regulate the movements of registered sex offenders, as illegal.

After three Niagara Falls city residents all spoke against repeal, including a grandmother of 9 who identified herself as a “survivor” of childhood sexual abuse, Minority Caucus Leader Dennis Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls, and Majority Leader Richard Updegrove, R-Lockport, announced they would not permit introduction of a late resolution proposing repeal on the legislature’s Tuesday meeting agenda.

Although the repeal hearing was scheduled well in advance, and the county attorney’s office has advised the legislature has no choice but to repeal the law, repeal sponsor Paul Wojtaszek, R-North Tonawanda, did not submit a resolution until after the deadline for getting legislation onto the meeting agenda. Late resolutions can’t be taken up by the body unless the majority and minority leaders, and the legislature chairman, all sign off. None did.

Instead, Chairman Bill Ross, C-Wheatfield, said, Wojtaszek will explore “modifying” the law to keep its essence in tact but no longer running afoul of the state constitution.

That may not be possible, judging from County Attorney Claude Joerg’s read on the law.

The Zone Act bans certain registered sex offenders from establishing residence within 1,000 feet of any school, child care facility, playground or other child-centered gathering place in Niagara County. The state “rates” convicted sex offenders as Level 1, 2 or 3 offenders, based on the degree of propensity a convict shows to commit another sex crime; and the Zone Act applies to all Level 2 and Level 3 offenders whose victims were minors.

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