An early May police sweep in the city of Hornell netted seven area residents on felony drug charges. One week later, Hornell’s mayor expressed concern over the rising use and sale of heroin in the city – an alarm, by the way, being sounded in communities statewide. Ithaca police announced a felony heroin arrest the following day. During this same timeframe, county sheriff’s deputies made what’s believed to be the largest-ever cocaine bust in nearby Livingston County.
And then late last week, following a six-month investigation into local drug dealing, local and state law enforcement officers made a major crack bust in Corning. Reasons for concern? Of course.
In 2005 I took office in the Senate during a region-wide methamphetamine scare. The killings of two sheriff’s deputies in Bradford County, Penn. – Michael A. VanKuren and Christopher M. Burgert – remained fresh in our minds. They were slain on the morning of March 31, 2004, while attempting to serve arrest warrants, including one involving the operation of a meth lab. It heightened our region’s already-growing fears over meth’s proliferation locally. Then in early 2005 a report from the state Commission of Investigation, “Methamphetamine Use & Manufacture,” identified our region as one of New York’s potential hotbeds for meth-related criminal activity, and the fears grew even greater.
So during the 2005 legislative session, I joined my Senate and Assembly colleagues and then-Governor George Pataki in a strong bipartisan effort to enact New York’s first comprehensive strategy to combat the manufacture and sale of methamphetamine. That law put in place tough new criminal penalties to outlaw the operation of clandestine labs; promoted greater community awareness and education; protected children; and began to address the environmental dangers associated with meth labs.  
It was a landmark anti-drug law, but on this issue we can never rest easy.  We need to stay on guard against meth.  As I noted above, the warning signs on a revival of the highly addictive drug heroin are renewing fears about illegal drug trafficking and drug-related violence from Long Island to Buffalo.  
So I’ve renewed a legislative response that I first proposed three years ago when Village of Bath Police Chief David K. Rouse offered the idea to create a state-level Drug Dealer Registry requiring convicted felony drug dealers to register with the state Division of Criminal Justice Services (DECKS) for up to 10 years.  Chief Rouse noted that over the past decade there has been a steadily increasing infiltration of drug dealers from large urban areas, including Rochester and New York City, into many of upstate’s small cities, towns, and villages.
Chief Rouse still likes the idea of registry, which has also been discussed in states including Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico and Tennessee.  He said recently, "When I first proposed the idea of a statewide Drug Dealer Registry, I was observing my own community being overrun with individuals who were coming to Bath, setting up shop, selling illicit drugs, and taxing the already limited resources of the village and our police department.  This continues to be an issue today.  Drug dealers pose a threat to all citizens and their activities have a significant impact on a community's quality of life.  Neighborhoods begin to rapidly deteriorate and housing values plummet.  Our citizens and communities deserve better.  A Drug Dealer Registry would provide valuable information to law enforcement, concerned citizens, parents, school administrators, and landlords to protect our children and the safety of our neighborhoods.  Absent a Drug Dealer Registry, drug dealers can conceal their identities and criminal pasts, moving undetected from one jurisdiction to another while continuing their illicit trade."
In other words, the heightened public awareness offered by a registry could give local police officers and local residents a strong tool to better protect their communities.  According to statistics from the state Department of Criminal Justice Services, in 2009 there were 36,715 felony drug arrests statewide, including the following number in the counties comprising my 53rd Senate District: Chemung (87), Schuyler (21), Steuben (85), Tompkins (35), and Yates (13).
My legislation gained Senate approval in 2007 and 2008 with strong bipartisan support when the Senate was under Republican control, but it was never taken up by the Assembly leadership.  Much like the state’s existing Sex Offender Registry, the proposed Drug Dealer Registry would provide notification to local law enforcement agencies and the local community on the identity and whereabouts of convicted dealers.  I think it’s at least worth being part of the discussion moving forward on anti-drug initiatives in this state.  I’d like to know what you think.  There’s currently a Web poll on winner.nysenate.gov where you can express your opinion, and I hope you will.