AUGUSTA — Officials are considering restricting where criminals who have committed sex offenses against children will be allowed to live in the city.

State law allows municipalities to restrict where certain sex offenders — those who have been convicted of sex offenses against children under the age of 14 — are allowed to live.

Police Chief Robert Gregoire said 142 registered sex offenders live in Augusta. Of those, 104 committed sex offenses against children, making them eligible for residency restrictions, beyond any already placed on them by their conditions of release, under state statute.

“Where do I sign up?” City Councilor Jeffrey Bilodeau said after Gregoire explained to city councilors last week that municipalities can restrict where those sex offenders can live. “I don’t think the 19,500 residents of Augusta who aren’t sex offenders are going to have any issue with this.”

State law allows municipalities to adopt ordinances prohibiting sex offenders against children from living within 750 feet of a public or private elementary, middle or high school, as well as “municipally owned property where children are the primary users.”

Councilors informally agreed to allow the city staff to start drafting on such a restriction and report back to them within 90 days.

While supportive of the idea, some councilors expressed concern about potential unintended consequences of such rules.

“Would we be creating a circumstance where there are only certain spaces sex offenders could reside, so you might see a really high concentration of them there?” Councilor Darek Grant wondered.

Gregoire said the city already has areas with high concentrations of sex offenders. Also, he said, even if each of the city’s schools and parks had a 750-foot circle around them within which sex offenders couldn’t live, “I think it still leaves considerable space for people to live.”

Gregoire said he knew of only two municipalities with similar laws on the books — Oakland and Sebago.

Mayor William Stokes, who is also a Maine deputy attorney general and chief of the state’s criminal division, said the state statute specifying how and where municipalities can restrict where some sex offenders may live was adopted in response to municipalities coming up with their own rules.

“Municipalities across the state were coming up with their own ordinances, some of which provided an outright ban, which raises some constitutional issues,” Stokes said.

Gregoire said there are 28 municipally owned parks in Augusta, though some might not be places “where children are the primary users,” so sex offenders would not be excluded from living near all of them. He said the city probably would have to develop a map to be able to tell where the restrictions would apply.

The law would not be retroactive and thus would apply, according to Gregoire and Stokes, only to registered sex offenders who move after an ordinance is in place.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

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