Public hearing set for Highland law limiting number of sex offenders in hotels

A public hearing on a law intended to reduce the concentration of registered sex offenders living in local motels has been scheduled for July 19. Offenders are being housed in motels by state probation officials because the state registry makes it difficult for them to live in many places. They are specifically curtailed from living near schools or other locations children congregate, and as they must disclose their registration status to potential landlords, they are often turned down by property owners concerned about backlash for renting to such individuals. Motels that have high vacancy rates have been used to help prevent the registration requirement from creating a de facto homeless population.

Town attorney Sean Murphy has placed his stamp of approval on a law first used in the Town of Colonie, but noted that as it’s never been challenged in court, which is the true test of its strength. The legislation would limit the number of registered offenders using a point system based on the registration itself, under which level 3 is reserved for the individuals deemed most likely to attempt similar crimes again.

According to Supervisor Paul Hansut, if the law is passed, it would not be legal to house more than two level 3 offenders at the Atlas Motor Lodge, where there are now four or five listed individuals living. The purpose of the law is to reduce the concentration of registered individuals in a single location.

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Council member Mike Guerriero asked why the police knowing the addresses of these individuals wasn’t sufficient, and Murphy explained that clustering has become a concern. According to Hansut, when this law was passed in Colonie in 2009, it “solved the problem.”

Murphy said that this is an “ongoing issue” throughout the state as a consequence of creating the registry, which itself arose out of recognition that recidivism is high among sex offenders. The attorney said that the fact that this law regulates motels — by creating a license needed to accept state money to house such individuals — rather than the listed offenders themselves, that it could pass muster. However, he did add that if it were challenged, “I’m not sure it would be upheld.”

Certified letters are to be sent to Rodeway Inn & Suites, 299 Motel, Highland Motel, Super 8, Atlas Motor Lodge and Valley Rest Motel. According to Hansut the largest concentration of registered offenders is presently at Atlas. A call to that establishment for comment was not returned by press time.

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