Owego residents push for stricter sex offender laws

By Michelle Costanza

Owego residents push for stricter sex offender laws

April 21, 2014 Updated Apr 21, 2014 at 11:49 PM EDT

Owego, N.Y. (WBNG Binghamton) Stricter sex offender laws are in the works after a heated meeting in Owego Monday night.

Though a notification system used to be in place to alert the community when a sex offender moved into town, parents say the process has fallen to the wayside.

"The policy at this point is kind a hit-and-miss notification of where these folks are," said Owego Trustee Earl Hartman.

Those at the meeting said the process was quietly nixed during cost-cutting procedures over the past couple years, though the mayor did not confirm this. In some communities, schools districts notify their residents.

When Caroline Sype discovered a level two sex offender moved into the house adjacent to her backyard, she immediately began spreading the news to her neighbors.

"I have four small children under the age of 8. I found this out on my own. No one told me. All it takes is a split second ... this is a tremendous issue," said Sype.

Outraged the village has not kept the prompt flow of information to its residents, those at the board meeting refused to leave without action.

Although the information can be found online, residents argued that it isn't enough.

Owego resident John Loftus said 16 registered sex offenders live in the village, and as more move in, children's safety could be compromised if the information is not made more public.

"When I was a child, officers used to knock on our door and tell us. How hard is it? We'll all do it if you don't," Loftus said.

After a heated discussion, village trustees unanimously voted to look into the issue and re-instate a fail-safe notification system to keep the community informed.

"The chief of police was instructed to reinstate the process regardless of cost, regardless of how it gets accomplished," Hartman said.

Hartman is also working with the village attorney to push for a residency law that would restrict where sex offenders are permitted to live within the town limits. State laws already prohibit offenders living within certain distances of schools.

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