Concerns About Legal Loophole for Sex Offenders

7:19 PM, Jan 31, 2013   |    comments
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BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Did you know there is a legal loophole that allows any convicted sex offender to still have access to children by working as a karate instructor or lifeguard?

It's an issue we here at 2 On Your Side have raised before and it's time to determine if our lawmakers are working to close it.  This surfaced today again before the Erie County Legislature, but it has come up before in one of our reports.

In April 2011, Channel 2's Michael Wooten reported on a convicted sex offender running a martial arts school for kids on Bailey Avenue.  While there is a state sex offender registry for police and the public, there is nothing in federal or state law which prevents such offenders from having access to kids.

Thursday, A.J. Verel of the Martial Arts Hall of Fame asked from support from the Erie County Legislature but it would really take action in Congress or the state legislature to get such restrictions.

One leading advocate for more restrictions says it has been stalled in the past by concerns about constitutional rights, but lawmakers claim it will come up again.

"We know sex offenders first repeat their crimes even if they're in jail for ten years and second they've very wily.  They figure out ways to get close to kids.  So this bill passed in the Judiciary committee and got to the floor of the Senate where it was held up but I'm optimistic that we can get it passed in the early months of this year," said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. 

"The concern once again is some convicted of a sex offense having contact with kids so that I believe is part of separate legislation which is also something that our office is working on," said State Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak.

But there is no exact timetable from either lawmaker.  There have also been concerns about resources to better track sex offenders for background checks.  That may still be held up by state and federal budget issues.

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