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Schumer urges youth group get access to sex offender records

WBFO file photo

With schools about to wrap up for summer vacation and kids looking forward to more free time, Senator Charles Schumer wants to ensure the kids' safety when coming into contact with adults at organizations including camps.

He says that would happen if organizations had an easier process for seeking records of past criminal convictions. Under the senator's proposed system, organizations could have direct access to FBI records of convicted sex offenders. During a Tuesday conference call, Schumer stated that current federal laws prevent summer camps and other youth-oriented organizations from doing so.

"This critical information that's being withheld may allow sex offenders or other criminals to work with children," Schumer said. "That's a thought no parent wants to countenance."

Organizations would pay a fee and work with a local police department to seek any records of prior convictions as they conduct background checks of new hires or volunteers.

The senator says not having easy access to such records proved troublesome in 2013 in Schuyler County, where Daryl Vonneida was convicted of 14 counts of sex abuse. His criminal past was unknown to some of the organizations in which he was enrolled.

"Though he was able to become a soccer coach, a church counselor and a Boy Scout leader, it was found that in an earlier life he had been sexually abusing children," Schumer said. "His early convictions were never flagged because they were difficult to find."

According to federal statistics, there are 16,758 registered sex offenders living in Upstate New York as of this month. Nearly 2,500 hundred of them live in Western New York.

"Unfortunately, the organizations that most work with children are the most targeted by people with these criminal backgrounds and sinister intentions," said Schumer, who told reporters during the conference call that his idea has the support of numerous organizations including the Girl Scouts, Big Brothers Big Sisters, 4H, U.S. Soccer Foundation and religious institutions.

"All the groups that deal with kids are for this. They want to protect their kids."

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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