2014-05-09 / Front Page

Sex offenders could be limited in where they live

By Duke Harrington
Contributing Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND – A proposal to limit where in South Portland felony sex offenders can live won unanimous approval during its first reading before the city council on Monday.

If the sex offender residency restrictions amendment to South Portland’s police ordinance passes a second reading May 19, anyone convicted of a Class A, B, or C sex crime against a person age 14 or younger would be banned from living within 750 of any school or public park within city limits.

According to Police Chief Ed Googins, six of the 10 convicted sex offenders who live in South Portland reside within the excluded zones, which includes areas around 11 schools and 17 parks, largely in the central and eastern parts of the city.

Googins was not able to say at an April 28 council workshop how many, if any, of those 10 sex offenders had been convicted of the more serious crimes targeted in the ordinance. However, all six of the offenders could stay in their homes under the ordinance’s grandfather clause. Convicted sex offenders also would get a pass if a home he or she maintains is “moved or enlarged” in a way that it falls into the restricted area.

According to Mayor Jerry Jalbert, there are another 16 registered sex offenders who work or attend school in South Portland.

“Any one of them could move here at any time,” he said. “We do have to have some sort of means in place.”

If any of those or other registered sex offenders should move into a restricted area, a 30-day notice would be issued, advising the person to relocate. Failure to do so would draw fines that could total $500 per day.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine has reportedly objected to South Portland’s proposed residency restriction, although City Manager Jim Gailey has noted the proposal falls within the strict confines allowed by the state Legislature in a 2009 statute that allowed certain limits.

A representative from the ACLU of Maine was anticipated to speak against the proposal at Monday’s city council meeting, but no one from the organization attended. Gailey said despite comments in the media, he had received no direct communication. Rachel Healy, the communications director for ACLU of Maine, did not return a request for comment by press time.

Still, Googins did address the controversial nature of the proposal, acknowledging the state ACLU’s assertion that residency restrictions are not proven to be a preventative measure against offenses.

“I wish it was as easy as enacting this or any other law to ensure the safety of our young people,” he said. “But one thing that cannot be disputed, it is when a sex offender reoffends, the question is always asked, ‘Could we have done more?’”

Among councilors, praise for the proposal was near universal.

“I’m very glad to see this,” said Councilor Melissa Linscott. “I just think it’s very important to have in place.”“The more we know about where these folks are residing, the easier it is to keep an eye on our children,” agreed Councilor Maxine Beecher.

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