Syosset residents worry about non-violent juvenile offenders coming to their neighborhood

SYOSSET, Long Island (WABC) -- A residential facility for troubled youth in a quiet neighborhood in Syosset will soon be taking in non-violent felony juvenile offenders, which is causing concern among neighbors.

MercyFirst on Convent Road near Village Elementary School said it will accept its first resident in December and will continue until it has reached a maximum of 14 non-violent juvenile offenders.

New York's Raise the Age law, which took effect October 1, allows all youth under the age of 18 who have committed a non-violent felony to be considered a juvenile offender. 16-year-olds can no longer be charged as adults. In October 2019, the law phases in for 17-year-olds.

People who live near MercyFirst have complained for years that young people routinely leave the grounds and trespass in their yards. Neighbors shared with Eyewitness News videos of young people running through their yards. Nassau Police respond to the facility several times a month for missing juveniles.

"MercyFirst has an obvious inability to contain its students on its premises, and we want to be both pragmatic and compassionate," said Nassau County legislator Joshua Lafazan. "We know that MercyFirst is the ticket to a better life for some of these kids and we all want that, however, no taxpayer in no municipality anywhere should ever have to tolerate kids trespassing on their lawn."

Lafazan said he has a meeting Thursday with the CEO of MercyFirst and second precinct police officers to address the security concerns and discuss possible revisions to the facility's security policies.

Court Cousins, co-president of the North Syosset Civic Association, said MercyFirst has to take meaningful action to enhance its security as the juvenile offenders move in.

"The police cannot be everywhere at all times," he said. "At some point, sure, it's possible there could be a confrontation between a resident and a child, and while that hasn't happened, I think all neighbors, as well as myself and MercyFirst, we all want to work together to make sure something like that never happens."

MercyFirst said in a fact sheet that it is using the funds from Raise the Age to plan for the construction of a fence.

Eyewitness News reached out to the CEO of MercyFirst several times for an interview for this story.

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