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Legislator Savage Calls on State Inspector General to Investigate Relocation of Sex Offenders to Temporary Home for Disabled in Buffalo


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Neighbors Who Claim They Weren’t Properly Notified When Two Level II Sex Offenders Were Moved to Their Street Stand With Local Leaders to Call for State Investigation

 

State, County, City Leaders Demand State Rescind Placement of Sex Offenders and Examine Whether it Violates Conditional Permit Granted by City of Buffalo

 

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Erie County Legislator Peter Savage, Senator Tim Kennedy and Delaware District Councilman Joel Feroleto joined neighbors in the City of Buffalo to call on the State Inspector General to investigate whether New York violated the terms of a conditional permit issued by the City of Buffalo when recently relocating two sex offenders into their neighborhood. The plea comes as neighbors become increasingly outraged that Russel Bennelthum and James Loder, two Level II sex offenders, were moved from a group home in West Seneca and into a facility run by Community Services of the Developmentally Disabled on Rosemary Avenue.

 

These frustrations are all too familiar; the West Seneca community expressed similar concerns for years when seven sex offenders, including Bennelthum and Loder, were placed in two group homes on Leydecker Road. Neighbors there made it clear that these offenders were not welcome, particularly because the homes they were placed in were steps away from a local park and playground. On Rosemary Avenue, the scene is similar; a school for kids with learning, social and emotional needs sits less than a mile from where the sex offenders now reside.

 

"The relocation of two Level II sex offenders to this strong North Buffalo residential neighborhood, in close proximity to a school, playground, and child day care is completely unacceptable,” said Legislator Peter Savage. “I share in the outrage expressed by neighborhood residents and call upon New York State to immediately reverse this terribly ill-advised decision."


“As a Senator and more importantly as a father, I find the relocation of these sex offenders to this quiet Buffalo neighborhood deeply troubling. One of these offenders was convicted of crimes against two young boys, and yet he has been placed in a facility that is within walking distance of three schools. This is a matter of safety – the safety of our children, and just as importantly, the safety of the disabled,” said Senator Tim Kennedy. “It is disturbing that New York continues to house these offenders with some of our most vulnerable residents, and in close proximity to local schools no less. These residents deserve answers, and they deserve action.”

 

 

In their letter to the Inspector General, Kennedy, Savage and Feroleto note that when the Office for Persons with Developmental Disabilities facility on Rosemary Avenue opened, the permit granted by the City required the location to be used as temporary housing for developmentally disabled persons, meaning residents were limited to 90- 135 day stays. Any resident staying for a longer period of time, or a person who is not classified with a developmental disability, would appear to be in violation of the conditional permit.

 

Kennedy, Savage and Feroleto also ask the state to investigate whether New York followed proper guidelines for notifying authorities and residents when relocating the two sex offenders. Some neighbors complained that they were unaware that these offenders were moved within close proximity to their children’s schools and day care.

 

Kennedy is currently a co-sponsor of legislation that would prohibit sex offenders from being placed in residences operated by the Office of Mental Health or the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities. This legislation passed the Senate this year, but failed to make it to the floor of the Assembly.

 

The full text of Kennedy, Savage and Feroleto’s letter to the IG is included below:

 

June 24, 2016

 

Ms. Catherine Leahy Scott

New York State Inspector General

Empire State Plaza

Agency Building 2, 16th Floor

Albany, New York 12223

 

Dear Inspector General Leahy Scott:

 

It has come to our attention that two Level II sex offenders were recently relocated to a Community Residence operated by the Community Services of the Developmentally Disabled, located at 590 Kenmore Avenue/76 Rosemary Avenue in the City of Buffalo. We are gravely concerned that the relocation of these sex offenders did not follow proper notification requirements to local law enforcement and to the community. Additionally, we are alarmed that this facility may now be in violation of the operating permit granted by the City of Buffalo. We respectfully request your full attention into the process behind placing sex offenders in this facility.

 

New York State law requires notification by the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) to local law enforcement, as well as local residents who elect to receive alerts. As these sex offenders were placed within an Office for Persons with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) facility, it is the state’s duty to notify the proper channels, especially in light of the potential harm sex offenders present to the community.  A dangerous precedent is being set if notification procedures were not followed. We request an investigation into the notifications made connected to the placement of sex offenders at 590 Kenmore Avenue/76 Rosemary Avenue, and ask for a determination of whether any notification was in compliance with applicable law.

 

Additionally, we are concerned about the placement of sex offenders in an OPWDD facility. When this facility was opened, the conditional permit granted by the City of Buffalo required the location to be used as temporary housing for developmentally disabled persons. Temporary housing was defined by the city to be limited to a 90 day stay, with an option for a 45 day extension. Any resident staying for a longer period of time, or any resident not classified as an individual with developmental disabilities would place the State in violation of the conditional permit granted by the City of Buffalo.

 

As you can understand, this issue is of extreme concern to the residents living near the Kenmore Avenue facility. As Inspector General, you have the ability to investigate the operations of all state agencies, including the OPWDD and DCJS. We urge you to fully investigate the decision behind placing Level II sex offenders in the Kenmore/Rosemary facility, as well as whether OPWDD is now in violation of the conditional permit granted by the City of Buffalo. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

 

Sincerely,

 

                                   

 

Senator Timothy Kennedy                                          Legislator Peter Savage

63rd Senate District                                                     Erie County Legislature, District 3

 

           

 

Councilman Joel P. Feroleto

Buffalo Common Council, Delaware District