WEST SENECA, N.Y.(WIVB) - New York State is moving convicted sex offenders into neighborhood group homes; two of those such homes are located on the same street in a residential West Seneca neighborhood.
There are many residential homes, families raising children and two homes are now occupied by seven registered sex offenders, all men, on Leydecker Road in West Seneca. Some neighbors were horrified when they found out sex offenders now lived on their quiet street.
West Seneca resident Colleen Ladori said, “I’m just a nervous wreck, I really am.”
The convicted offenders moved to 510 and 526 Leydecker Road in January after being housed in a secure state facility in Rochester.
West Seneca Supervisor Sheila Meegan says no one, not even the neighbors were notified about this.
Meegan said, “This kind of communication is vital especially when you’re dealing with a group home that was designed for the mentally challenged adults, that are now having the mixture of sexual predators.”
Local law states that sex offenders can’t be within 1,500 feet of children. However there’s an exception if the offenders are housed in a secure facility like a jail, prison or juvenile facility. Meegan says the group home is not a secure facility.
Meegan said, “They came from a facility that had a fence that went up 16 feet over. They had to go through a sally port. A locked door, another locked door before they came into the housing, none of that exists. So what changed from the drive from Monroe County to here?”
But because they live in state-run facilities, local laws that prevent sex offenders from living near schools and parks don’t apply. Supervisor Meegan says she is working with Senator Patrick Gallivan to change the language of the local law so this can’t happen in the future, and Senator Gallivan says he’s working on the state level to bring attention to these legal exemptions.
“There may be no legal reason to compel the state to move these individuals out of there, however, public response, government should listen to public response,” he said.
Police documents state the sex offenders are moderate to high-risk repeat offenders. In fact, one of them was convicted of raping a child and a 13-year-old lives directly across the street.
West Seneca resident Phyllis Barker said, “My heart sunk down to my feet because having two teenage daughters right across the street from the most horrific thing you want to deal with in your life. Other than death and then there’s kids all up and down the street.”
The NY State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities says the sex offenders were assessed by highly trained clinicians before being recommended for community placement. They say before the person arrives at the group home, a plan to address their needs are assessed including the need for supervision.
A Supreme Court decision in 1999 prompted states to provide less restrictive homes for those with disabilities, and that has led to the closing of several institutions and the opening of dozens of neighborhood group homes. But Senator Gallivan says this is not working.
“I think the State Office of Mental Health is using that as an excuse in certain cases as a means to save money without looking at the proper way to treat people,” he explained. “A sex offender who also has a mental health issue who have proven that he has victimized others and there’s no reason to believe that he is still not at risk if that person is in a place that is not secure.”
The NY State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities says the safety of the community is key to them and the group homes are also monitored.
A spokesperson for the Governor Cuomo’s office says if a convicted sex offender has paid their debt to society they are free to reside anywhere.
Neighbors were also upset because they weren’t notified about the move. The spokesperson for the governor says they’re not required to do so. Instead, homeowners can visit an official website to see if a sex offender has moved nearby. There’s also an online alert system families can sign up for.