Ball: We’re Taking the Lead in Northern Westchester on this Issue
Assemblyman Greg Ball (R, C, I – Patterson) called a public meeting of the Assembly Minority Sex Offender Watch Task Force on Thursday to discuss plans to combat incidents of sexual violence, and to unveil proposed Child Safety Zone legislation in Yorktown.
“There are children being protected in Putnam County, and children just to the south don’t have those same protections,” Ball said. “Together with Assemblyman Castelli, we represent most of Northern Westchester, and we can pull together all of the Northern Westchester School Districts, as well as groups like the Elizabeth G. Butler Angel Foundation and Hope’s Door, to talk about best practices for education and prevention. We can unify these groups so that we can fund them through grants.”
The Assembly Minority Sex Offender Watch Task Force includes Assemblyman Robert J. Castelli (R, C, I – Goldens Bridge) and Assemblyman Peter D. Lopez (R, C, I – Schoharie), who each attended the Yorktown forum.
“The penalty for adolescent ignorance isn’t and shouldn’t be rape and assault,” Castelli said. “We know that through education we can get our young people to a point of awareness where they recognize that if they are victimized they need to take the necessary steps to report that in a timely fashion.”
“We have many of the same issues as the cities,” Assemblyman Lopez said. “This issue can be pervasive in the small communities, where it is often hidden and masked. How do we as community come together to create a climate that encourages a zero tolerance mentality and encourages within young people an understanding of how critical these issues are and how much they can be a part of the solution?”
“Statistically and demographically, what we find is that there’s a higher instance of reporting now of sex offenses and sex crimes. Thankfully, that’s because, and especially with young women who are the targets of many of these crimes, we are recognizing that these crimes are crimes of violence. They are not related to sex. They are related to violence and empowerment,” Castelli said.
Ball, who worked with legislators in Putnam County to enact Child Safety Zones has been working with Yorktown Councilman Terrence Murphy to bring the same protections to Yorktown. But, Ball notes that the issue will not be solved by Child Safety Zone enforcement alone.
“This is a very complex issue,” Ball said. “It involves molestation, rape, assault, incest, and other sexual crimes. Most of these crimes are committed within the four walls of our homes, or by people we know and trust. We need unified participation and communication from the many advocates as well as the school districts to combat the problem.”
Rebecca deSimone of Victims Assistance Services applauded the Child Safety Zone legislation, but noted that it is not a comprehensive solution to the greater problem.
“This law is extremely well intentioned,” deSimone said. “But, I am worried that the law will give us a false sense of security at times. Strangers are responsible for only about ten percent of the attacks. Ninety percent of abusers are known by the victims. They are family, or people within our communities, and we need a comprehensive perspective on this crime.”
“If the local municipalities and counties wait for New York State to take action, they could be waiting until Hell freezes over,” Ball concluded. “During the time that the Civil Confinement bill was held up at the state level by Sheldon Silver, there were over 50,000 forcible rapes. It is incumbent upon counties and municipalities to take preventative measures.”
The forum was also attended by Yorktown Supervisor Sue Siegel, Councilmen Terrence Murphy, Nick Bianco, and Vishnu Patel, Yorktown Town Justice Salvatore Lagonia, Lt. Kevin Soravilla of the Yorktown Police Department, Capt. McNamara of the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office, and Susan Aron of the New York State Crime Victims Board.