Old Town considers limiting where sex offenders can live
By Eesha Pendharkar
Old Town is considering restrictions on where in the city sex offenders can live, a move that would make Old Town one of the only larger towns in the Bangor area that limit where sex offenders can live.
A proposed ordinance Old Town’s City Council will consider next month would bar registered sex offenders who have been convicted of felony-level sex crimes from living within 750 feet of schools, public parks and other places that children frequent, including day care or recreation centers.
Old Town currently has seven registered sex offenders, who would be grandfathered in if the ordinance passed and would not have to move, according to Deputy Police Chief Lee Miller. However, if they move within town, the ordinance restrictions would apply to them.
According to the draft ordinance, a person on the sex offender registry would not be allowed to live within 750 feet of any of the city’s three public schools: Old Town Elementary, J.A. Leonard Middle and Old Town High schools.
Ten other parks and public places are also on the proposed list of restricted areas, including the baseball field on Gilman Falls Avenue, public spaces such as Coombs Park and Sewall Park, and other locations that children frequent, including the Old Town Recreational Center and the Old Town-Orono YMCA.
State law allows towns and cities to pass restrictions on where sex offenders can live locally, and 750 feet is the maximum distance restriction they can set.
Currently, Old Town has no restrictions on where sex offenders can live, but it’s something the city has looked into in the past. There is no increase in the number of registered sex offenders moving to Old Town or residents convicted of sex crimes, Miller said.
But since 2016, the police department has developed a system to more closely keep track of residents on the registry.
A police officer is assigned to check on every registered sex offender once a month. Officers make sure that whoever they’re in charge of keeping an eye on is living in the same place, among other things, Miller said.
“If the sex offender moves, we know it because we have someone checking on them,” he said. “It has nothing to do with the ordinance. It’s just a practice we have.”
If Old Town passes the 750-foot restriction, it would join Bangor, which put the same restrictions in place in 2013. Brewer, Hampden and Orono have no restrictions on the books, according to reviews of their local ordinances.
Under Old Town’s proposed ordinance, the city would first send a notice to registered sex offenders living less than 750 feet from a restricted area to inform them of the violation. After 25 days, if a sex offender is still living at the residence deemed to be in violation, the city can charge a minimum fine of $500 per offense. Each day the sex offender continues to live at the residence would be considered a seperate offense.
The Old Town council’s Administrative Services Committee voted to pass the ordinance at a meeting Monday. The full City Council will do an initial reading of the ordinance Dec. 2 and another one Dec. 16. The public will have a chance to weigh in at both these readings before the council votes on the ordinance.