Sex offenders populate Central New York. In Oneida County alone, there are 722 registered sex offenders. Herkimer County has 161 registered offenders and Otsego County has 92 registered sex offenders. There are different rules and restrictions facing each offender based on their case and level of registry.
Motel owner Linda Turner most likely never thought the David Motel, her way of making a living, would also be the scene of her violent death. But on a cold November day, repeat sex offender Robert Blainey raped and then strangled the 68 year old Utica woman to death. It left a community stunned and asking the question: How could a child rapist and repeat offender ever be free enough to murder and innocent woman?
It's a question that vexes the people charged with keeping us safe from predators like Blainey, who rape and murder with no apparent remorse. Even at the court case, Blainey said, "One of us had to go and sure as hell wasn't gonna be me."
Marco Ricci is the Regional Director of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. Based in Albany, his jurisdiction extends into Central New York. He says that the current system works, but nothing is perfect. "On occasion," he says, "we have people who are doing well, and then something happens." Ricci said in cases like Blainey's, there are sometimes absolutely no signs of an offender returning to his old criminal ways of life. He says, "I wish we had a way of knowing who was going to be who. If we knew that, we wouldn't them out in the first place."
The punishment varies on a case by case basis. He also says the reason Central New York has an unusually large amount of registered sex offenders is simple. "Central New York has a facility that contains a lot of sex offenders." The reason why Central New York has more per capita than New York City? Ricci says that the Queens and Bronx don't have prisons or confinements. The prisons are in Upstate New York,
Ricci says by law, the sex offender must register his or her address. So if the offender is housed at the Oneida County Correctional Facility or Mohawk Valley Psychiatric Center, that is their address. With four different prison facilities, it increases the registered offender's population. Once an offender is released, it's Ricci's department that oversees the offender's behavior and public safety. He mentions their triggers and says, "We do what we can do to make sure they don't reoffend. Even if their sexual preference is still a child, as long as they can live safely in the community and they don't reoffend. Ultimately, we don't want them to come back to incarceration. We want them to be productive citizens and not a burden because of supervision. Most want to succeed."
But what about those offenders who fall short of success in our open society? Ricci says simply, "The minute they can't, public safety calls for a return to incarceration. We have a very small tolerance for re-offenders." Legislation is in the work by Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi and State Senator Joe Griffo to tough offender supervision and monitoring rules. That could lead to more work for Ricci and his team, but he welcomes a change. He says, "I think it's a good thing. Anything that keeps our community safe, I think that's good legislation."
Ricci says his team does its job as best as the current law allows. It's ultimately up to our community to stay safe from potential predators. Ricci ends saying, "It's incumbent of all of us to watch and be aware for our children and to be aware that they are out there. I assure you we will do everything to make sure that the offender is taken care of, and if they're not, we will be the first to take them off the street."