A couple-hundred people braved cold temperatures Saturday to continue their pressure against the placement of seven sex offenders in supervised housing in a West Seneca neighborhood.
“These guys know they’re not welcome here,” said Tony Fischione, a West Seneca resident who spoke to the crowd at Sunshine Park, the rally’s staging area, and again outside the two group homes.
“These people destroyed a community somewhere, so let them go back and face what they did. We don’t want them here. The residents pay taxes, and we want to be secure in our homes.”
The state has quietly put the developmentally disabled sex offenders in two group homes on Leydecker Road, where nonviolent people with disabilities were placed in the past.
But angry West Seneca residents said the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities should have been forthcoming about the change. They want the sex offenders moved away from a residential neighborhood in close proximity to a park and playground, and into a secure location where they won’t pose a threat to families.
Fischione said a neighbor told him that the sex offenders were loaded into vans earlier in the morning and were gone while the protest occurred Saturday afternoon.
Linda Vargo said her 86-year-old aunt, who lives across the street, has been terrified.
“She’s been calling us nonstop. She’s not eating right, and she’s scared to death. Another neighbor has a 13-year-old girl. These people need to be moved to a secure building, and not into actual homes where there’s no security,” Vargo said.
“Group homes for the disabled are not the issue. Pedophiles are the issue.”
Assemblyman Michael P. Kearns, D-Buffalo, who was among the marchers, said he remains frustrated by the state’s lack of transparency.
“People are very concerned, and they need to get answers,” he said.
Kearns plans to present a signed banner from the rally to Albany officials to emphasize that the presence of seven sex offenders in a residential neighborhood poses an “extreme situation” in need of an immediate remedy.
The size of Saturday’s turnout should help make that message resonate more, Kearns said.
“I’m hoping we can get some quick answers,” he said.
The men, ages 31 to 53, are originally from Erie and Niagara counties. They were moved on Dec. 26 to 520 and 526 Leydecker Road from the state’s Monroe Developmental Center near Rochester after that facility closed. The town’s only notification was the legally required contact to local police to have the sex offenders register their change of address.