City safety committee discusses sex offenders

The Public Safety Committee of Dunkirk City Council discussed an important topic at a recent meeting. Councilman William J. Rivera said he had residents concerned about sex offenders residing in the city, especially in the vicinity of schools. The city does have a local law for distances surrounding schools and sex offenders.

“In 2006, City Council passed a resolution in terms of the distance parameter (from a school). It’s not the same for every municipality. … That’s not a blanketed rule,” Rivera said.

The complaints Rivera has been receiving is concerning a sex offender residing within this 1,000-foot parameter near a local school. Councilwoman Stacy Szukala said this individual was living in the residence prior to the law being enacted, but does face certain restrictions.

“There are times during the day when he is not allowed out in his front yard; that’s morning when the kids are coming to school and the afternoon when the kids are leaving from school. Unfortunately, he lived there prior to (the law). You can’t make a person move,” Szukala said.

Dunkirk Police Chief David Ortolano said the police department has enforced the local law and made arrests in the past and will continue in to the future. There is a sergeant in the department who keeps track of sex offenders.

“I have a sergeant, Chris Witkowski, and that’s one of his duties. He keeps track of everything. He reports on that every single day,” said Ortolano. “We know exactly who, what, where, when, why. If (sex offenders) are not registered, fail to change their address, fail to come in for their updated photo, Chris is right on top of that and we do take care of that.”

If any resident wants to look up offenders living within their neighborhood, the police department has a book. According to Ortolano, the registry is available 24 hours a day at the department’s dispatcher desk. Any city resident with ID can look through the book, but it cannot be removed from the desk. The registry can also be accessed by visiting the Dunkirk Police Department’s website at dunkirkpolice.com. If residents have further questions, Ortolano said to contact Sgt. Witkowski. Szukala also said she uses websites that send out alerts when offenders move in or out of a neighborhood.

“There are also websites that I actually have, there’s Neighborhood Watchdog and there’s one other one, that I get every time somebody moves in or out of jail, or moves to the area or away, I get a notice by email. So almost every day, and it’s not just Dunkirk – it’s the surrounding areas, too …,” said Szukala. “There are tools out there for people who want to know what’s going on.”

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