One Maine Town Now Has a Say in Where Certain Sex Offenders Live
Voters in Orrington approved an ordinance this week that creates restrictions on where certain sex offenders can live within the town limits.
Why Was the Special Election Held?
The issue began when a registered sex offender moved into a neighborhood that's located near businesses and a church that offers ministries for children. Residents began looking into whether the town had any restrictions on registered sex offenders and found that there were none in place in Orrington. Maine does not restrict where registered sex offenders can live unless they are on probation or supervised release. That's left up to each municipality to determine whether residents will be informed of the offender moving into their community and where that person is allowed to live. This can prove challenging for towns that don't have a law enforcement agency, but use State or County agencies.
A group of residents started gathering signatures on a petition that aimed to put those restrictions and notifications in place in Orrington and, on Tuesday, December 12th, a special election was held and an ordinance was adopted. While it's less restrictive than the one proposed by residents, it still puts reasonable rules in place for where certain registered sex offenders can live in the town limits.
What Are the Restrictions That Were Approved?
Under the new ordinance, a person who is a registered sex offender and whose victim(s) was under the age of 14 are prohibited from establishing a residence at any location or area up to a maximum distance of 750 feet surrounding the real property or premises comprising:
- A public or private elementary, middle, or secondary school
- A municipally-owned or state-owned park, athletic field, or facility that is open to the public where children are the primary users
- A municipally-owned or state-owned property leased to a nonprofit organization for a park, athletic field, or recreation field that is open to the public where children are the primary users.
What About People on the Registry Who Already Live in Town?
There are exceptions, however.
- Any registered sex offender who already has an established residence within these restrictions is not required to move.
- Any registered sex offender who has a residence, but has been away from it, is allowed to return as long as they have maintained sufficient links to the town and haven't displayed any intention to leave.
- Finally, if a school, athletic field, or park expands or is newly created within a registered sex offender's restricted zone, that person will not be required to move.
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