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North Buffalo residents say they weren't told two sex offenders moved in down the street

Posted at 7:27 PM, Jun 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-28 14:11:36-04

Two sex offenders have moved into a group home at the corner of Kemore Avenue and Rosemary Avenue in North Buffalo.

The home is for people with developmental disabilities and is around the corner from PS 86 St. Lawrence Academy. And just down the road is "Ripen With Us" Childcare Center.

Local politicians are asking for a state investigation to determine if these men should have been allowed to move to the group home and if the state properly notified local authorities.

Russel Bennethum, 33, and James Loder, 50, are Level 2 sex offenders and both currently live at 76 Rosemary Avenue. People in the surrounding neighborhood were shocked sex offenders had moved so close by.

"My jaw dropped," Lori Pantono said. She lives next to PS 86. "I have a 16-year-old daughter who walks to work and walks to school. I have a 10-year-old son who plays in this playground."

Keith Page lives across the street from the group home. He isn't sure what may happen with the summer months just getting underway.

"With summer vacation here and kids out there, I think it's going to be a different feel on our neighborhood," he said. "Certainly the parents and everyone will be keeping an eye on the kids."

Page first learned about the sex offenders in a community newspaper about two weeks ago. Pantono only found out in the last two days when neighbors started circulating flyers. She's already seeing a change in her children.

"I'm deathly worried," she said. "My son won't go to his neighbor's house without me watching him walk across the street."

The sudden move and lack of communication has people in the neighborhood angry.

"Why wasn't I notified?" Keith Page asked. "I've got my wife and I've got my 11-year-old son across the street. Why didn't I get notified?"

According to the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), which oversees the New York Sex Offenders Registry, they notify local police when offenders have moved into or within a particular area. They say after that, it is up to local police to decide whether to let communities know. Information about Level 2 and 3 sex offenders is publicly available online. You can also sign up to receive alerts if a sex offender moves into your area here.

Janine Kava of DCJS confirmed that the registry notified Buffalo Police of Bennethum's move on April 6th and Loder's move on June 8th. BPD has not said if they notified neighbors, or if they typically do so in these situations.

The house at the corner of Kenmore and Rosemary is a group home run by Community Services for the Developmentally Disabled (CSDD), a Western New York organization. Those living in the home are assigned to move in by the NYS Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). CSDD doesn't have a say in who lives in their homes. Everyone in the care of the OPWDD has a documented developmental disability.

NYS Senator Kennedy, Erie County Legislator Peter Savage and Buffalo Common Councilman Joel Feroleto have asked the State Inspector General to investigate whether these sex offenders should have been allowed to move into a group home. They also want her to look into whether the state agencies appropriately communicated the move to local authorities.

Kennedy doesn't think sex offenders should be allowed to live in these type of homes. He's worried about the other occupants who may be particularly vulnerable.  

"These community homes, while the supervision is there, they're for individuals with disabilities," he explained. "They're not for supervising convicted sex offenders that have the potential to prey on our community and our children."

Kennedy is a co-sponsor on a bill that hopes to prevent sex offenders from being placed in these homes in the future.

For Level 2 and 3 sex offenders, their information is always available on the online sex offender registry. For information on Level 1 offenders, people can call 1-800-262-3257.

Buffalo Police also recommend that residents sign up to receive sex offender relocation email alerts through the state's alert system. You can sign up here.