Oneonta will create routine for sex offender notification.
September 8, 2000
The Daily Star, By Jill Fahy - Staff Writer
City: Policy in the works
ONEONTA — Convicted sex offender Daniel W. Hewlett moved into Jennifer Shaver's city of Oneonta neighborhood in June, and she wants to know why she didn't hear about it until last week.
"I was informed by a flyer that was passed around and I also found out by listening to a group of neighbors who were irate," said Shaver, who lives on Luther Street, a few houses down from Hewlett's residence.
Hewlett, who was convicted in 1996 of sexually abusing an 8-year-old girl, is listed in the state Sex Offender Registry as a Level 3 — the highest risk — offender.
Shaver, who brought up her concerns at a recent Common Council meeting, said she was under the impression that the public had the right to be informed of Hewlett's whereabouts by local law enforcement under New York's version of Megan's Law.
But this isn't the case, according to city of Oneonta Police Detective Sgt. Joseph Redmond, who says officers can, but don't have to, release any information on high-level sex offenders under the statute.
"The law doesn't mandate we do anything," Redmond said.
City police did, however, opt to release information to the press when they learned Hewlett was in the Oneonta area in August 1999 because he didn't have a known address and was wandering around the city.
Redmond said Hewlett, 23, first registered as a sex offender with the city police in 1996, and has checked in with officers every 90 days to verify his address.
Attempts to contact Hewlett by phone and in person were unsuccessful.
The release by authorities of Hewlett's name, exact address, crime and conviction information is authorized under Megan's Law because of his Level 3 status.
But, Redmond said, the department wants city officials to design a clear-cut policy on community and neighborhood notification protocol before they release detailed information on offenders.
"(Megan's Law) tells us what we can release, but we need to know exactly how and who we release it to," Redmond said.
City attorney David Merzig said officials are now working on a policy that will cover who — neighbors, schools, youth groups — receives the information and how it will be disseminated.
"There has never been a policy in the city of Oneonta," Merzig said. "To my knowledge, this is the first time we've had to address this issue, and because we're breaking new ground here, we want to make sure we do it right the first time."
Merzig said a public workshop, led by a Megan's Law official, will be scheduled to explain the law as it applies to New York state. The city, he said, will also study notification policies from other communities to help design its own.
Once a policy is developed, it will become another standard operating procedure for the city police department to use in accordance with state law, Merzig added.
Hewlett is the only sex offender listed as residing in Otsego County and no Schoharie County residents are listed on the registry, but three Level 3 sex offenders live in Delaware County, where a public notification policy has already been put in place, said Delaware County Undersheriff Douglas Vredenburgh.
"It was somewhat of a learning process for us, but now, we have a policy that we'll be able to use to deal with these individuals," Vredenburgh said. "But it's always best to err on the side of over-notification."
Vredenburgh said personal information has been released publicly concerning convicted sex offenders Brian S. Macrabie of East Meredith and Michael Hazen of Cadosia.
Any notification policy for Delaware County's third offender, David M. White, of Hancock, falls under the jurisdiction of the Hancock Police Department, Vredenburgh said.
"If the offender lives in a city or village that has a local police agency, the head of that agency has the authority to decide to what extent information is given," Vredenburgh said.
So far, the enforcement and application of the state law and the county policy has worked well in the county, he said.
He said he would, however, like the state to monitor more closely the offender's address if it temporarily changes. He noted the case of Hazen, who once violated parole and was sent back to jail. This temporary change of address was not accounted for by the state.
Chenango County has two Level 3 sex offenders — Homer E. Adsit, 34, of Earlville, and Richard E. Sinesi, 28, of South Otselic. Adsit was convicted in 1996 of sexually abusing an 8-year-old girl; Sinesi was charged in December 1996 with the third-degree attempted rape of a 14-year-old girl.
New York State Sex Offender Registry phone numbers: