WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- The state Senate has passed two bills, including one co-sponsored by Sen. Terrence Murphy (R-Yorktown). One would allow a municipal local option to restrict residency for sex offenders. The other, authored by Murphy, would make it unlawful for a convicted sex offender to reside near his victim.
Discussion of so-called "child safety zone" legislation recently shot to the forefront after a state appellate court decision striking down municipal laws to enact residency requirements for sex offenders. However, those involved in the issue for years celebrated a significant legislative victory in Albany. "Yet, what we've learned is while child safety zones may create a sense of security, many sexual assaults against children are perpetrated by someone the victim knows. Victims should not have to tolerate the emotional distress that coming into contact with their abuser may cause," Sen. Murphy said.
Murphy began his advocacy for child safety zones in 2007 with an organization known as Keeping Westchester Safe. He served on the State Assembly Sex Offender Watch Task Force, responsible for the genesis of the idea, pushing for its adoption in several counties, including Putnam, which he now represents. The courts struck down those initial laws, ruling a municipality could not pre-empt the state Division of Criminal Justice Services on sex offender placement, leading to the first statewide proposals for a child safety zone fix.
The bill Sen. Murphy authored is his first legislation to pass the state Senate. It addresses expert concerns that child safety zone laws alone are not enough to protect victims. It restricts sex offenders from residing within 1,500 feet of victims' residences. The bill Murphy co-sponsored allows localities to legally provide residency requirements for sex offenders. "I hope the State Assembly will move quickly to pass both these laws to protect victims and so our towns and counties finally have the option to legally define sex offender-free zones, such as schools, bus stops, child care facilities, parks, playgrounds, sports fields, dance studios and other facilities that attract children. So we can say to sexual predators, 'Find someplace else to live,'" he said.
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