The two trailers in Southampton Town that have housed homeless convicted sex offenders after their release from custody for the past six years were shuttered and padlocked on Monday, though they remain in Riverside and Westhampton awaiting permanent removal.
The news came as a relief to town officials, community leaders and residents who vehemently opposed the trailer program since its inception under former Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy in 2007. The town has hosted both trailers, serving the entire county, during that time.
“It is a relief, and we’re very happy,” said Stephanie Canale, a resident of Westhampton Pines, the senior complex that is often brimming with grandchildren and sits just feet from the trailer off Old Country Road. “We do realize that they need a home, but I don’t think that is our problem. That’s up to the county find them the right place to live.”
The county relocated approximately 26 homeless convicted sex offenders from the trailers as of Monday, according to Vanessa Baird-Streeter, a spokesperson for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. The individuals were placed in shelters across Suffolk County, away from families and children, and with no more than one per site.
Though county officials did not share the exact locations of the shelters, Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman said he did not think there was more than one—if any at all—in Southampton Town.
The trailers—one located at the Suffolk County Police shooting range off Old Country Road in Westhampton, and the other adjacent to the Suffolk County Jail in Riverside—will be removed, Ms. Baird-Streeter said, though she could not share an exact date or timeline. She added that security will remain at the trailers for about two weeks.
“It’s not done until they’re gone,” Brad Bender, a director of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association said on Tuesday, adding that his organization has worked hard for years to get the trailers closed. “We’ve testified, we’ve held signs—we’ve done just about everything we could.”
Mr. Schneiderman said he is pushing for the trailers to be towed from both sites as quickly as possible to remove any possibility of individuals being relocated there in the future. “I don’t want to even have it out there as a possibility,” he said. “I don’t want it to be an option.”
Mr. Bellone had promised last May to close the trailers by January, but he missed that deadline. In February, he proposed legislation called the Community Protection Act, which established a rigorous monitoring system to keep track of the county’s roughly 1,000 convicted sex offenders who have been released from prison, and promised to relocate the homeless offenders from the trailers. Suffolk County legislators unanimously approved the legislation without legislative hearings because it was introduced as an emergency measure.
The Community Protection Act also awards a $2.3 million contract to Parents For Megan’s Law, a nonprofit organization charged with ensuring that the sex offenders comply with state laws that require them to register and report their address and workplace. Mr. Bellone announced last week that eight offenders had been arrested since the program’s implementation.
“This has been a long-awaited resolution to an issue that has burdened this town so unfairly,” Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said on Saturday, May 25, a day after Mr. Bellone announced that the trailers would close over the weekend.
“There have been so many promises along the way—good intentions that weren’t delivered for various reasons or unanticipated hurdles,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “I’m so relieved that it’s finally over.”