The Babylon Town Board on Tuesday adjourned a public hearing on a proposed law that would set residency restrictions for sex offenders in the Town pending the outcome of a court challenge to a similar Suffolk County law.
Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer said the legislation, which would ban Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders from living within a quarter mile from "places where children could naturally congregate" was being adjourned indefinitely.
Courts throughout New York state have struck down local laws that are more restrictive on sex offender residency than the state's own sex offender law, which applies only to Level 3 offenders - those considered the most dangerous - who are on probation or parole.
The state bans those offenders from living within 1,000 feet of schools, playground and other areas where children congregate.
The proposed law in would give the Town's Quality of Life Task Force the ability to enforce the law, and violators would be subject to fines and prison time.
"After careful consideration, the Town Board finds this legislation is the most narrowly tailored means of limiting, to the fullest extent possible, the opportunity for registered sex offenders to approach or otherwise come in contact with children in places where children would naturally congregate, and that the protection of our residents is a compelling governmental interest," the legislation read.
Only one resident spoke before the board during the public hearing on the issue on Tuesday.
Bill O'Leary, a forensic therapist with an office in Farmingdale, said while it was an emotional issue, restricting sex offender residency isn't effective.
"The more we make them unstable, the more we have them wandering around," O'Leary said of sex offenders.
In many of the court challenges to local laws statewide, the issue of "pre-emption" has been cited, meaning if there's a state law in effect on an issue, then no local law can be more restrictive.
Pre-emption, one judge wrote in a decision according to a report in the Buffalo News, "is particularly necessary in order to avoid what's been termed 'the race to the bottom,' where local municipalities vie against each other to enact ever more restrictive legislation to push convicted sex offenders into residency in neighboring communities with less restrictive proscriptions."