05/25/2007

N.Y. city considers drug dealer registry

By Jacob Gershman
The New York Sun
Copyright 2007 The New York Sun, One SL, LLC
All Rights Reserved

ALBANY, N.Y. — Albany is considering legislation creating a Megan's Law-like registry for convicted drug dealers.

A Republican state senator, George Winner, will introduce the "Drug Dealer Registration Act" next week, one of his aides said yesterday. The bill would require individuals convicted of certain drug offenses to register with state's Division of Criminal Justice Services, which oversees the state's sex offender registry, for at least five years.

While supporters of the bill say that publicly listing the addresses of convicted drug dealers released from prison would prevent them from concealing their criminal past and help parents protect their children, critics contend that it represents an invasion of privacy and could become a Yellow Pages for drug addicts.

The bill would apply to drug dealers convicted of a variety of felony offenses. First-time offenders would have to register for five years; repeat offenders would have to register for 10 years. The state agency would then disseminate the information as it does with sex offender registrations, forwarding them to local law enforcement officials in order to notify communities when a drug dealer moves into the neighborhood.

A draft version of the senator's sponsor's memo argues that a drug dealer registry is in ways more important than a sex-offender registry.

"Sex offenders pose a risk to children and, in other instances, adult women. Conversely, drug dealers pose a risk to all people," the memo says. "They threaten the quality of life in our communities and challenge the well-being of our families."

"Currently, in the absence of appropriate legislation, drug dealers are able to conceal their criminal past by moving from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and continue in their illicit trade," the memo continues.

Critics of New York's drug policy laws say the registry could have terrible consequences.

"It's not only a bad idea. It's a ridiculous and pretty stupid idea," the project director of the Drug Policy Alliance in New York City, Gabriel Sayegh, said. "I would expect to find something like this on an ‘SNL' show," he added, referring to the comedy show "Saturday Night Live."

Mr. Sayegh said that the registry would not only stigmatize people trying to reenter society but could be exploited by drug addicts eager to know the whereabouts of drug dealers in their neighborhood.

"One of the major concerns is that, essentially, you're laying out where the people are able to go," he said. "They are basically going to create a mapping problem. It could be a Yellow Pages."

Mr. Winner did not return calls for comment. 

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