As Halloween approaches, the biggest scare for parents may not come from a slasher movie, but from a beeping BlackBerry cell phone providing the first warning of a sex offender moving into the neighborhood.
Thanks to a bill pushed by state Sen. Joe Klein (D-Bronx) and state Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Forest Hills), any updates to the Megan’s Law database of sex offenders near a subscriber’s neighborhood will be e-mailed as alerts.
Gov. David Paterson signed the bill into law two weeks ago. Klein said the e-mails would start within 90 days of that date. To access the service, residents must log on to the Megan’s Law Web site and sign up for notifications from up to four different ZIP codes.
“This is a fast, easy and free way to keep tabs on who’s moving in and out of your neighborhood,” Klein said, noting the e-mail alert system will piggy-back on the existing emergency alert system run by the state Department of Homeland Security.
“If I know there’s a sexual predator in my neighborhood and Halloween is coming up, maybe I don’t let my kids trick-or-treat on that block,” Lancman said.
The e-mails will contain the names, addresses, crimes and photos of registered sex offenders, Klein said. He indicated the e-mails would not include a notice warning recipients not to use the information to harass the sex offenders. The Megan’s Law Web site includes a disclaimer indicating such behavior is against the law.
“That’s the way the government should work,” state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) said.“Delivering information in an easy way.”
The new law got the thumbs-up from one City Council member, too.
“All too often sex offenders become repeat offenders,” said Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), who represents Ridgewood and Glendale.
Queens was home to 1,132 sex offenders, Klein and Addabbo said. Three of the top five ZIP codes were in southeast Queens. Far Rockaway was first, with 63, followed by Jamaica with 61. St. Albans was third with 55, Ridgewood and Glendale were fourth with 54 and Corona was fifth with 42.
News of Ridgewood ranking among the top borough ZIP codes for sex offenders did not sit well with several of the parents who came to the conference.
“In a way it is scary,” said Gianni Morales, 40, of Ridgewood. “We have kids of any kind of ages here.”
Crowley pointed out that the 11385 ZIP code comprises more than 60,000 people, making it much larger than some other postal areas in Queens.
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.