Thursday, October 09, 2008

Steve Levy, quit dumping on Riverhead

Wake up, Riverhead! What's it going to take to get the people of this community to rise up and tell County Executive Steve Levy we're not going to stand for being a dumping ground for the county's homeless sex offenders and we're not going to tolerate any more bull?

How about this? The county is now planning to replace the cots in the trailer with bunk beds, so the county can double up the number of men "living" in the trailer? (See story in the Oct. 9 edition of The News-Review.) That will allow twice as many sex offenders to live in the trailer.

Stack 'em up and pack 'em in, Stevie boy. Thank you very much.

When the county first set up house for homeless sex offenders in a trailer in the parking lot of the county jail in Riverside in early 2007, county officials told this community the trailer was going to be moved from one location in Suffolk County to another.

Bull chips. It hasn't budged.

Despite complaints from residents and town officials, not only did the county keep the trailer here, it brought in an even bigger one, so it could house even more homeless sex offenders. Now 16 convicted sex offenders, some of them bearing the "violent sex offender" designation and the vast majority of whom are deemed "level three" by the state, or at high risk of repeating their heinous crimes -- many of them against little children -- call that trailer home.

When residents and town officials complained, because this concentration of dangerous sex offenders, thanks to the County of Suffolk, was living within walking distance of the library and several public schools, county officials told us not to worry. The sex offenders were kept locked up in the trailer at night under the watchful eye of private security guards behind a secure fence (even though the men are not, technically, in jail) and during the day they are taken in a county van to their "home" social services offices.

More bull chips. The "secure" fence has a gaping hole in it and a wide-open gate through which anyone can stroll, any time. (They're fixing it now, they say.)

Well, we asked, what about on weekends and holidays, when county offices are closed? What happens then?

On weekends, the county spokes-hack tells us, the men are driven up-island to shower at an industrial complex whose location the county refuses to disclose.

All right, that's half a day. What about the other day-and-a-half every weekend? And the trailer's got no kitchen. What do they do for meals?

Humminna ... humminna ... humminna...

The needle on the bull chip meter just went wild.

The county rejected my idea of moving the trailer to land outside the county's minimum security jail in Yaphank -- a very good idea, if I do say so myself -- because the Yaphank site is undergoing a $150 million renovation that "makes it impossible" to place the trailer there.

Wanna bet this is just more bull?

And now, in the add-insult-to-injury department: bunk beds, so the county can squeeze 40 men in a trailer now equipped to house only 20.

Remember, folks, the county trailer came into being because other communities -- Coram and Mastic -- objected loudly to the large number of registered sex offenders in county housing within their borders. Mr. Levy's solution was to put them in a trailer and rotate the trailer around the county. It would be moved every week or two, we were told at the time.

Social Services deputy commissioner and Jamesport resident Greg Blass (our former county legislator, one-time Family Court judge and the husband of Councilwoman Barbara Blass) told The New York Times in February 2007 that the trailer would be rotated around county-owned sites "in large, undeveloped areas away from communities."

Uh, like downtown Riverhead?

"[Sex offenders] have tended to locate permanently in places where they were placed in temporary shelters," Mr. Blass was quoted in The Times. "This lets us avoid making any one area a haven for sex offenders. It's an attempt to prevent saturation."

Except saturation is OK if it's in Riverhead.

Mr. Levy, a Democrat cross-endorsed by the Republicans last time out, thinks he is politically invulnerable; he certainly doesn't think he needs Riverhead's votes. He believes he can do whatever suits him.

And right now, dumping on Riverhead suits the county executive just fine. It's convenient, and not too many voters seem to give a damn. This is Riverhead, after all. We're used to it.

Besides, Stevie figures what better place to dump all the county's homeless sex offenders than a town where a convicted sex offender once headed up the Business Improvement District and actually ran for supervisor? We must be a very tolerant place.

C'mon, people, make some noise.

Copyright 2008 Times/Review Newspapers Corp.