Out of state, out of mind: NJ gets tough on transplanted sex offenders

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:51

    A loophole in Megan's Law that allowed sex offenders to move into New Jersey without immediately being added to the state's offender registry has been plugged, thanks to a group of people who complained after a pedophile from New York moved into their neighborhood. Instead of waiting up to 10 weeks for a risk assessment on a high-risk offender, county prosecutors can now petition a judge to put the person on the registry immediately. But law enforcement officials won't be able to conduct door-to-door notifications of neighbors until after the state assigns a risk level to the person. The change stemmed from community outrage over Luis Villanueva, 36, who was convicted of sexually assaulting an 8-year-old girl in 1994, sentenced to 11 years in prison and branded a high risk to re-offend by New York authorities. He moved into an Atlantic County town in May. After learning about Villanueva's record, resident Michelle Troisi-Gjerazi and others, upset that they had not been notified when Villanueva moved in, complained to state lawmakers, who in turn brought it up with the state Attorney General's Office. The state rewrote the guidelines given to prosecutors for dealing with sex offenders who take up residence in New Jersey, which previously said that such people had to be evaluated before being ranked as a Tier 1, Tier 2 or Tier 3 offender and formally added to the online registry. The change, written as an "emergent publication'' addendum, allows a county prosecutor to temporarily post the name of the person pending a tier classification and a hearing on it. Communities in New Jersey, which led the now-nationwide effort to notify people when sex offenders move into their neighborhoods, have been stepping up efforts to protect children from pedophiles in recent months. Several towns have adopted ordinances banning released sex offenders from living near schools, parks and playgrounds. Jackson Township, which last month began banning sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of a school, park, playground or day care center, voted Monday to add roller skating rinks, movie theaters and amusement parks to the ordinance.