Wednesday, December 11, 2013
The Guy Next Door
Much to the chagrin of parents, city officials and police, Augusta is home to more sex offenders, per capita, than any other Maine municipality.
Bruce King according to a mugshot taken by the Maine Department of Corrections, possibly in 2003. Maine Department of Corrections
Maine Department of Corrections
Six out of every 1,000 residents of the capital city are registered sex offenders. That tops the next closest, Bangor, where there are 4.4 sex offenders for every 1,000 residents, Rockland, at 4.2, and the state’s largest city, Portland, at 2.5.
While the numbers don’t lie, they don’t explain why, either.
The reasons, according to city leaders, advocates, corrections authorities, landlords and parents, range from Augusta’s availability of relatively cheap housing, its urban setting where offenders without cars can get around easily, and easy access to a myriad of social services here, in part, because the city is the state capital.
But city officials and some residents, particularly those with children, complain the city gets more than its share of sex offenders fresh out of prison in part because corrections officials have established working relationships with local landlords willing to rent to sex offenders.
“There have been some concerns that the state Department of Corrections is placing sex offenders in Augusta, it almost seems like a matter of practice,” said Police Chief Robert Gregoire. “A lot of them didn’t live in Augusta (before they went to prison). The Department of Corrections, to some extent, may find it easier to have them in all together in a confined area, so they’re easier to visit and monitor. If I was in that line of work, that’s what I’d think about.”
It’s a claim corrections leaders don’t deny.
“It’s not uncommon at all for probation officers and caseworkers to develop a good working relationship with landlords,” said Scott Landry, superintendent of Maine Correctional Center, in Windham. “They get to know landlords who’ll work closely with them. There are some rooming houses and other places that have been willing to work with sex offenders, and will have a number living in one. Some landlords are very good about it. They interact with the department and work with us to make sure they’re managed safely. It is easier to monitor them when you have a number of them living in the same rooming house. Probation can be going through those kinds of places very routinely. It can be done safely.”
‘We don’t do this willy-nilly’
Of the 115 registered sex offenders in Augusta, 16 live in apartment buildings owned by Larry Fleury’s firm, River City Realty, according to cross-referencing research of the sex offender registry and the city’s property assessment database.
Fleury said by his count he is renting to 12 sex offenders. He said the reason he rents to more sex offenders than any other landlord in the city is fairly simple. He has more buildings than other landlords, with 23 rental properties totaling 170 units. And he has smaller, and thus cheaper, units available in the city, where his tenants can walk to work and services.
He said he’s careful in placing sex offenders in his buildings, screening and rejecting potentially violent offenders, and making sure sex offender tenants are not put in buildings with children.
“We dig into the history of people, we’ve turned down a lot of people because they’re violent,” Fleury said. “We don’t do this willy-nilly. To me, it’s giving them a foot in the door. A lot of these people are going to lead productive lives. It came on slowly for us, we took a few here and there and, I hate to say it, but they’ve turned out to be, for the most part, excellent tenants.”
Fleury said sex offenders who’ve served their time in prison come to Augusta because of the available housing and to be close to jobs, services and probation officers.
(Continued on page 2)
click image to enlarge
388 Water Street in Augusta.
Staff photo by Andy Molloy