Democrat Photo By Nathan Mayberg
SULLIVAN COUNTY SHERIFF Michael Schiff, left, looks on as State Senator John Bonacic makes announcement last week.
Grant Funds Tracking of Sex Predators
By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO October 10, 2006 As part of an effort to combat sexual predators, New York State Senator John Bonacic announced the release of a $250,000 grant to the Sullivan County Probation Department to monitor the movements of registered sexual offenders here.
The funds will be used to purchase a global positioning system that will track the most dangerous offenders. Sullivan County has 124 registered sex offenders, according to Bonacic. The county has relied on electric monitoring since the 1990’s to determine whether the convicted felons are at home or not. The new GPS monitoring system will allow the department to cover their every move. If a crime is committed, police would be able to trace an offender to the scene. In addition, offenders are usually restricted from being in certain areas, whether it be near the victims or schools and day care centers.
Bonacic said the GPS systems, as approved by the state, are a step in the right direction. The senator would prefer that sexual predators be put in prison for life. That is because they are likely to repeat their heinous crimes once released, he stated.
The county’s share is part of a $1 million statewide pilot program. Bonacic was given half a million dollars to spread throughout his district.
Sullivan County District Attorney Stephen Lungen said sexual crimes have been a constant problem for the county. Reports of such activity arrive weekly to his office.
“Sexual predators are some of the most difficult to fill out of society,” said Mr. Lungen.
They are often difficult to prosecute and discover because the vast majority of the victims are children who are afraid to come forward. And when they do, the potential trauma associated with reliving the experience through testimony, can slow a prosecution down. Furthermore, there tends to be no adult witnesses. Many don’t report their crimes for years.
Recently, the state ended the statute of limitations on rape. The previous statute was five years.
“If one child is saved by catching a predator in a place he shouldn’t be, it is worth it,” said the DA.
The state also expanded Megan’s Law this year, so people can track the residences of sexual predators on the internet.
Sullivan County Sheriff Michael Schiff said “this helps every police agency in this county.” He hopes the new technology will put fear into the criminals.
The rate of re-occurrence in sexual predators has decreased by 30% in the State of Florida since the institution of a similar program there, said the senator. The average sexual predator commits their crimes 14 times before they are caught, he added. He described them as the “worst kind of felon.”
Sullivan County Probation Commissioner Genovieve Dainack said her office has 47 sexual offenders on probation currently. She has two people to deal with them on a daily basis. “It is a very difficult job,” she stated. “This is another tool to help us.”
The probation department takes the DNA of all sexual offenders and felons currently on probation in the county. The program is also being expanded into some who are convicted of misdemeanors.
Luckily, Dainack said the rate of recidivism in the county is not high. She credited her staff with ensuring offenders make sure they take their medication and attend treatment. “The risk is too great. We’re very proactive,” she stated.
Tom Fogarty, who works with Linda Lukoff as one of the probation supervisors that work with sexual offenders, said sexual predators cover all walks of life. There is no stereotypical sexual offender, he said.
“Our children are our most venerable citizens,” concluded Bonacic.