An Orrington Select Board meeting last month devolved into an explosive half-hour debate between residents and officials about where sex offenders should be allowed to live within the town.
Residents assumed that restrictions on how close registered sex offenders could live to places such as schools and parks were set statewide. But it wasn’t until an offender moved to Orrington this summer that many realized the town does not have those laws in place.
residents were surprised to learn that Maine does not have a state-wide residency restriction for sex offenders, but it offers language towns can adopt. Under Maine state law, it would only apply to someone on the registry for a conviction of a crime against a child younger than 14.
Community members are pushing for an ordinance setting a 750-foot restriction from schools, parks, playgrounds and other areas where children are the primary users, but town officials haven’t made any effort to enact it.
The proposed ordinance contains language that says people convicted of sex crimes against children have a high rate of recidivism. Such offenders have a 5.1 percent arrest rate for another crime against children within three years of their release from prison, according to a study from the U.S. Department of Justice.
A study of people released from prison for a variety of crimes found 62 percent reoffended in three years, per the DOJ.
Residency restrictions have an appeal, but can give people a false sense of security
Adopting this ordinance is not easily done, Backman said at the Sept. 25 meeting. They are easier to write when the enforcement falls on town police departments, which Orrington does not have,