North Buffalo residents have every right to be upset by the placement of two sex offenders in a home for developmentally disabled adults, just as homeowners in West Seneca had every right to be upset by the placement of these two individuals and five other high-risk sex offenders in their community.
New York State is engaging in an intensive effort to deinstitutionalize the developmentally disabled. However, it is going about the latest move in a reckless and secretive manner that only exacerbates concerns among residents over group homes. Creating group homes for the developmentally disabled is one thing; withholding information on the background of the residents when they are potentially dangerous sex offenders is quite something else.
Since the locked and segregated section of the state’s Monroe Development Center near Rochester was closed, these two developmentally disabled registered sex offenders and several others have been moved around like chess pieces among communities that, for good reason, do not want them near their schools, day care centers and playgrounds. The defense that these men are somehow no more dangerous than anyone else rings hollow to any parent.
Seven high-risk registered sex offenders were moved to group homes at 510 and 526 Leydecker Road in West Seneca under cover of darkness on Dec. 26, 2014, and suddenly moved out in the same manner in recent weeks.
Two of them – Russel Bennethum, convicted of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl, and James Loder, convicted of attempted sexual abuse of a 6-year-old boy and a 7-year-old boy – were moved to the North Buffalo group home at the intersection of Rosemary and Kenmore avenues.
Assemblyman Michael P. Kearns, D-Buffalo, and local elected leaders in West Seneca stood against what they perceived as the state’s unwillingness to share the reasons for moving the men into and then out of their community.
Now State Sen. Tim Kennedy, Erie County Legislator Peter Savage and Buffalo Common Council Member Joel Feroleto, all Democrats, want the New York State Inspector General to find out whether the state’s Office for People with Developmental Disabilities “can legally allow sex offenders to live under the same roof as people who are developmentally disabled.”
People with disabilities should never face discrimination, but communities should not have to shoulder the high cost in peace of mind in exchange for whatever cost savings the state gains from deinstitutionalization.