Amsterdam law would restrict sex offenders

City legislators are set to pass a local law that would deter sex offenders from moving into local h

City legislators are set to pass a local law that would deter sex offenders from moving into local hotels and motels and restrict those that do.

The law, modeled after similar legislation passed in the town of Colonie, would require that operators of a hotel, motel, inn, trailer park, boardinghouse or rehabilitation facility apply for a license if they intend to allow sex offenders to live there. The law requires that the license be displayed in a prominent place such as the hotel lobby.

Hotels and similarly designated facilities are also restricted in how many sex offenders they can house based on a point system. Each offender is given points based on their risk level. A Level 3 sex offender is given three points, for example. A facility with 50 or fewer occupancy units will be allowed six occupancy points and a facility with more than 50 units will be given nine occupancy points.

Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis drafted the legislation after hearing from Amsterdam police officers that an unusual number of sex offenders had moved into the area.

Neighboring communities including Schenectady County have restricted where sex offenders can reside and as a result have pushed them into areas like Amsterdam, which lacks sex offender restrictions.

In one high-profile case that unfolded in 2007 while Schenectady County was debating its own set of regulations, a former mayor of Scotia had allowed a Level 3 sex offender to live in his home, sparking a drive by residents for the village to create its own set of restrictions. The convicted child molester later moved to Division Street in Amsterdam, the city Police Department confirmed.

Sex offenders who are recently released from jail are often placed in hotels or motels while they find a place to live, DeCusatis said.

Alderwoman Gina DeRossi, R-3rd Ward, said she supported the legislation despite questions about the legality of restricting where sex offenders could reside.

“So many of the area cities and towns have similar legislation, so until it is found to be unconstitutional, we need to have it,” she said. “I don’t want to be an open place for sex offenders. I don’t accept them with arms wide open, so to speak.”

Alderman William Wills, D-4th Ward, was one of the first lawmakers to call for restrictions on sex offenders after an offender moved to Reid Street.

“After realizing how many [sex offenders] we have in the area, it’s scary,” he said. “We have to do something.”

Wills said he had hoped to put in place legislation similar to that of Schenectady County, where sex offenders are prohibited from living within 2,000 feet of any place where children congregate including schools and playgrounds. However, similar legislation in Albany and Rensselaer counties was deemed unconstitutional. Schenectady County’s law will be tested in court after a registered sex offender sued the county in November for the ability to move into his girlfriend’s house.

There are 118 registered sex offenders in Montgomery County according to the state Department of Criminal Justice Services’ Web site. About half of them reside in the city.

The law will be voted on during tonight’s Common Council meeting, set for 7:30 in the Common Council Chambers of City Hall.

Categories: Schenectady County

Leave a Reply