Between Oct. 10 and Nov. 2, SUNY New Paltz students were sent multiple emails notifying them that seven registered sex offenders had moved into the town.
All seven offenders — six level three sex offenders and one level two sex offender — are currently residing at the Econo Lodge Motel in New Paltz.
Sex offenders are registered as a level one, two or three, with three being the highest risk.
A level two sex offender poses “moderate risk of repeat offense” and a level three poses “high risk of repeat offense and a threat to public safety,” according to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Service.
In a letter sent to University Police Chief Mary Ritayik from Detective Sergeant Matthew Sutton of the New Paltz Police Detective Division, SUNY New Paltz was referred to as an “entity with a vulnerable population.”
Why then, are these sex offenders allowed to live so close to town and to multiple schools? Why are they permitted to reside in the same motel?
“This was an agreement between New York state and the Econo Lodge to house these offenders. Once agreed upon, the New Paltz Police Department was notified since these offenders now reside in their jurisdiction,” Ritayik said.
On Oct. 19, Mayor Tim Rogers held a meeting with Chris Farrell, clinical supervisor for the sex offender unit at the Ulster County Probation Department, to discuss why this was happening and what this could mean for the community.
Farrell said that all level three sex offenders were being held in the prison system, even after their release date, because there were no places accepting them under supervision, until the Econo Lodge stepped forward.
Farrell also said that the motel is not obligated to tell their guests that they are housing sex offenders.
When asked if it was dangerous for multiple sex offenders to reside in the same motel, Farrell responded: “Probation and parole require that offenders don’t fraternize or associate with people like themselves. Does that eliminate it? No.”
The announcement of these sex offenders was met with immediate push back from the community.
“This is absolutely insane!!! No justifiable explanation for this,” commented Kierston Storm during the Oct. 19 meeting.
In response to the sudden influx of sex offenders into New Paltz, Town Board member Julie Seyfert Lillis assured community members on Facebook that “The Town is working to create a law as quickly as possible. This law would be like many other Towns’ and would limit the number that can be housed at any one hotel/motel.”
To stay safe from any potential incidents, Ritayik suggests keeping alert and mindful.
“Try to avoid the area where these offenders reside,” Ritayik said. “My advice is to know what is going on around you. Be aware of your direction of travel, where you park your car, limiting the use of cell phones and headphones so that you can remain aware of what is going on. Typical safety precautions should be utilized when walking alone at night or in dark low-lit areas, such as walking with a friend or group of people. Keep your doors and windows locked when not at home and at night. Keep any valuables in your vehicle away from the public eye and keep your car doors locked.”
The UPD Campus Escort Service also has officers available to walk (with usual pick-up options on hold due to COVID-19) with students from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. during the school semester. You can reach them at 845-257-3338.
To search the New York Sex Offender Registry, click here.