The arrest of a Sanford man on charges of tattooing two underage girls in South Portland is evidence of a growing problem, say police and public health officials.

South Portland police charged Rayvon Freeman, 23, with assault, tattooing without a license and tattooing a person younger than 18.

On Sunday, Freeman chatted online with a teenager and a preteen, then met the girls at an apartment in the Redbank section of the city a few hours later, said Detective Sgt. Steven Webster.

Authorities learned of the incident after one of the girls told her mother, and Freeman was arrested Monday.

“He was charged with assault because, as far as I’m concerned, based on their age, when you get a tattoo it is technically an injury,” Webster said. “I’m not saying anyone who gets a tattoo has been assaulted. It’s up to the District Attorney’s Office on that charge.”

In a separate case concluded in Portland District Court last week, Jeffrey Beaudoin of Westbrook paid a $350 fine for tattooing skulls on a 15-year-old boy’s torso in April.

In June, Westbrook police charged Sean Thomas of 77 Bridge St. with running an unlicensed tattoo parlor in his apartment, advertising on MySpace and with business cards.

“This thing kind of ebbs and flows, but we’ve seen a resurgence in unlawful tattooing,” said Capt. Tom Roth.

Maine law does not allow minors to get tattoos. It requires that tattoo artists be licensed, and that the application be done in a clean environment.

“This is a growing issue of concern,” said Dr. Dora Anne Mills, head of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “We get a couple complaints a month.”

“I think there’s a sense out there this is not much more than taking a permanent marker and drawing on somebody’s body,” Mills said. “The opposite is true. It’s much more of a medical procedure than anybody realizes.”

Unsanitary conditions can allow blood-borne diseases like hepatitis and HIV to be transmitted by the needles that inject ink into the skin, she said.

Requiring tattoo artists to be licensed started in the late 1990s as numerous parlors opened and some people got sick from poor practices, Mills said.

Webster said police take a dim view of tattooing children because they are too young to make decisions that are effectively permanent.

 

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: [email protected]