Old Orchard Beach on Tuesday became the latest community in Maine to enact restrictions on where registered sex offenders can live in town.

In a unanimous vote, the Town Council approved an ordinance that bans certain sex offenders from living with 750 feet of town-owned property where children congregate, including the town’s 7-mile-long beach.

Nearby Biddeford and South Portland have implemented similar restrictions. Local ordinances are allowed under a 2009 Maine law that permits municipalities to prohibit certain sex offenders from living with 750 feet of a school, park or other public facility where children are the primary users. The ordinance can only apply to sex offenders who have been convicted of crimes against children younger than 14.

Police Chief Dana Kelley has said the restrictions are needed to safeguard children in the community.

The residential restrictions, and similar laws in some other Maine communities and around the country, have seen broad public support from those who say they are a measure to protect children.

Opponents, however, say the restrictions are not based on evidence and could possibly even make communities less safe by driving sex offenders underground or into homelessness.

There are roughly 3,100 registered sex offenders living in Maine, a number that fluctuates daily as people come off or are added to the list, or move in or out of the state. According to the Maine Sex Offender Registry, 20 sex offenders live in Old Orchard Beach, a town of roughly 8,600.

In 2014, the South Portland City Council unanimously passed an ordinance restricting where sex offenders can live. Bangor passed its ordinance in 2013. The city of Portland discussed a local ordinance in 2010 but never enacted one. Biddeford approved its local ordinance in May.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

[email protected]

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