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City, state officials to fight Norwich sex-offender placement with laws, ordinances

By Claire Bessette

Publication: theday.com

Published October 28. 2013 10:00AM   Updated October 28. 2013 10:52AM

Norwich — City and state officials left a joint meeting Monday with plans to propose city ordinances and legislation to combat the placement of sex offenders in state-funded Norwich apartments and to deal with other potentially violent offenders who are on parole or probation here, some of whom police say are homeless and not as well monitored by the state.

The meeting, led by state Sen. Cathy Osten, D-19th District, started by focusing on the recent discovery that The Connection, Inc., which operates the January Center sex offender treatment facility in Montville, is renting apartments in Greeneville for sex offenders released from the center.

Officials said Monday that three additional sex offenders have been placed in the Central Avenue house located near the village playground and two school bus stops.

That would bring the number to at least four in that apartment house, enhancing city officials’ concerns that the arrangement could constitute a rooming house. City zoning regulations call for rooming houses that serve as transitional housing to obtain permits. The state sex offender registry Monday listed two residents in the house.

Lee Ann Gomes, social work supervisor for Norwich Human Services, said pursuing zoning and housing issues worked several years ago when the city faced a proliferation of unregulated but state-funded substance abuse recovery houses.

City officials persuaded the state to ensure the houses met with local zoning before issuing rental subsidies to house operators. Gomes said her department also made state officials aware that in some cases they were paying full rental subsidies to apartments shared by several tenants. Gomes said now the state makes annual inspections and divides rent subsidies by the number of tenants sharing the unit.

The tenants from the January Center receive state rental subsidies under the Re-Entry Assisted Community Housing, or REACH, program.

Mayor Peter Nystrom, who organized Monday’s meeting, last week called for the state to suspend the January Center until a comprehensive review can be done of the center’s treatment and release policies. A host town agreement calls for treatment participants to be released to their towns of origin or “other appropriate location.”

Richard Sherbo, a former Bridgeport-area man who finished up a 30-year prison sentence for the abduction and rape of two 16-year-old girls, was placed in a home in Norwich last month. The crimes occurred more than 30 years ago, and city officials said there was no reason he could not be returned to that area of the state.

Later Monday, The Connection Chief of Staff Lisa Dematteis-Lepare sent a letter to Nystrom reminding him that she had invited him to a Sept. 25 meeting and received no response. She invited him again to a meeting on either Nov. 14 or 21.

In  a statement to The Day, The Connection spokeswoman Beth Connor said the agency invited other local officials to meetings as well.

“We are confident that people will feel reassured that The Connection is doing laudable work and protecting public safety,” the statement said.

Nystrom said he did not recall receiving any invitation to a Sept. 25 meeting and said he would accept an invitation for a November meeting.

Officials at Monday’s meeting also plan to research whether sex offenders from Norwich are being placed in other cities to the same degree. State officials have argued that some offenders cannot return to their towns of origin to protect the victims.

Police Chief Louis Fusaro and Captain Patrick Daley said they are concerned that the number of registered sex offenders in Norwich has risen from 52 in 2004 to 102 today. They also want more state monitoring of violent ex-convicts living in Norwich.

City officials plan to craft ordinances to create child safety zones. Daley said 70 percent of sex offenders live within 2 miles of the Greeneville house now in question.

Norwich Police Sgt. Peter Camp will compile a computer database with detailed information on all 102 sex offenders living in Norwich, including where and when their crimes were committed and where they are from originally.

Osten and state Rep. Emmet Riley will research possible state action. Daley requested that the sex offender registry mandate a description of the person’s criminal history. Some list brief details of the crimes, letting residents know whether the person could be a potential danger. Others have no such information.

After the meeting, Osten said it was “very interesting” that not all cases on the sex offender registry contain the criminal information.

c.bessette@theday.com

 

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