SALAMANCA — Over 50 members of the Salamanca community expressed outrage at the Common Council meeting Sept. 9 concerning a recent incident with a registered sex offender in the city.
Much of the frustration was aimed at Cattaraugus Community Action and the Kinley Hill Emergency Shelter, which provided housing to a man who was charged with public lewdness and three counts of endangering the welfare of a child.
“Predators know how to pray on kids, and we don’t want them here,” said Theresa Ray, a life-long city resident, to the council. “You guys are the governing body, so we’re coming to you to say: help us.”
Mayor Michael R. Smith said he, council members Michael Lonto (R-Ward 3) and Sandra Magiera (D-Ward 4) and County Legislator Dave Koch (D-Salamanca) met with Community Action and Kinley Hill officials to discuss the matter and learn more about what they do.
“At a certain point, you’ll hear that Community Action’s hands are semi-tied by the state of New York and the Department of Social Services,” Smith said. “There’s nothing we can do as the city. We can’t kick Kinley Hill out. We can’t say, ‘There’s sex offenders here, get the hell out,’ even if we may feel that.”
On Aug. 19, a 40-year-old man was arrested at about 7:24 p.m. after three girls reported to police that the man had exposed himself to them at Sycamore Park. Police said the man was taken to the police station where he was processed. Parole was contacted and a violation of parole was sent down for the man. He was arraigned and transported to Cattaraugus County Jail.
According to Smith, the man was in the city for less than 24 hours, saying he was an emergency placement in Kinley Hill and the incident occurred the following day. Smith said the man when to his probation officer earlier in the day, who called social services to say the man is going to re-offend.
Jodie Fuller, who manages Kinley Hill, said their purpose is to provide emergency shelter to homeless people regardless of the reason why they’re homeless, whether it’s from mental illness, a physical disability or recently released from prison with nowhere to go.
“Our job is to put them in housing and put in place supports and services so they can be as successful as we possibly can,” she said. “That is why we are here, and we are still very much about self-sufficiency.”
Many in attendance voiced concern that the supports and services shouldn’t be given to registered sex offenders and that they shouldn’t be allowed to live in the heart of the community. Some noted Kinley Hill’s proximity to stores, parks and community places within a mile as a danger to children in the city.
“The building should be in a remote location. They should be bussed to and from (the city),” one attendee said. “Jobs can be created for them in a remote location. Not near young children.”
Others in attendance pressed the Common Council to take action in finding a way to prevent more registered sex offenders from being placed in the city, such as contacting the Seneca Nation about revoking leases from places that house sex offenders.
“This board is willing to meet with the Nation to come up with a cohesive plan to address this issue,” said Lonto. “The bottom line is: the Nation can revoke anybody’s lease.”
Council member Janet Koch said the city should also begin looking into how to stop the county from placing sex offenders in Salamanca at all.
“We’re equally as frustrated as all of you,” Smith said. “We’re just trying to find out how to make it better.”
(Contact managing editor Kellen Quigley at firstname.lastname@example.org)