By Shana Rowan
As a registry reform advocate and fiancee of a registrant whose crime was committed as a minor, I read your piece on Farmingdale's potential sex offender residency restriction with interest.
I am a central New York resident and successfully fought the same restrictions when my city considered them this past August. I believe your readers would benefit from understanding why the various reasons that this type of legislation is not just ineffective but harmful.
Empirical research indicates that residency restrictions do not reduce sex crimes against children, mainly because they are based on the myth of high recidivism, and the false belief that all registrants are dangerous to children. High-profile but extremely rare high-profile cases of serial pedophiles and child molesters obscure the fact that 95 percent of children are abused by a family member or acquaintance behind closed doors, not a stranger on the registry. Sex offender recidivism has also been consistently documented as extremely low - in the single digits - for decades.
Mayor Erkstrand's NIMBY mentality is another major issue. Because schools and daycares are often centrally located, blanket radial housing bans force sex offenders (and their families and children) into clusters (disproportionate number of former offenders in a small area) and also make it more difficult for them to access employment, treatment and other support systems.
Mayor Erkstrand may not like sex offenders, but making it even more difficult for them to re-integrate healthily into the community makes it more likely they will re-offend. Do we want revenge, that results in more victims, or prevention?
Lastly, residency restrictions have been successfully overturned in dozens of New York counties and towns in the past several years. If the town passes the ordinance, it will be challenged and they will be forced to repeal it; there is simply too much precedent. Municipalities are not legally allowed to impart harsher laws than the state mandates. They will have wasted taxpayers' money and failed to protect anyone.
All statistics may be verified in our study section: www.usafair.org/studies.
Editor's Note: USA FAIR (Families Advocating an Intelligent Registry) is a nonprofit organization representing the family members of former sex offenders.