By Karl Grossman
The Suffolk County Legislature this week passed what has been called “Natalie’s Law” under which the county would set up a website to provide information about the location of all arrests involving heroin. It did so despite the argument of Legislator Thomas Barraga of West Islip that it was a “feel-good bill” that would help drug dealers and addicts.
The measure is named after Natalie Ciappa, an 18-year-old from Massapequa, in neighboring Nassau County, who died of a heroin overdose in June. On Monday, a day before the Suffolk Legislature acted, Nassau passed a similar Natalie’s Law.
Its sponsor in Suffolk was Legislator Wayne Horsley of Lindenhurst who described it as “the most effective … legislation possible.” It would not “defeat the emerging heroin epidemic in suburbia, but Natalie’s Law does constitute a necessary tool allowing law enforcement and families to identify who we are fighting and where they are.”
But Mr. Barraga, as the legislature met Tuesday in Hauppauge, said that “drug dealers are not dumb, they’re shrewd, and drug addicts are shrewd and desperate for a fix” and that he expected that they would be the main people using the website. They would do that to make sure they don’t engage in heroin dealing in locations that come up on the website because of the attention the areas could be expected to be given. Thus Natalie’s Law would not only engender a “false sense of security,” said Mr. Barraga, but guide drug dealers “on the move.”
However, Legislator Kate Browning of Shirley said “parents in my district” commonly look at a website created as part of Megan’s Law—aimed at registered sex offenders—and she believed they would keep watch on the website that would be constructed for Natalie’s Law. However, she said “I would like to see it expanded” to cover arrests for other drugs, especially OxyContin.
Mr. Horsley, in response to the Barraga criticism, called the measure “the first step in tackling a scourge.”
The vote on the bill was 17-1. Mr. Barraga cast the lone dissent.
The bill now goes to County Executive Steve Levy for his consideration.