SOUTH PORTLAND — With a unanimous vote by the City Council on Monday, South Portland joined several other Maine communities that have adopted laws to restrict where certain types of sex offenders can live.

Councilors voted 7-0 to approve an ordinance that will prohibit people convicted of the most serious crimes – Class A, B or C – against children younger than 14 from living within 750 feet of schools or any other places, such as recreational fields, where children are the primary users. The restrictions are the most stringent allowed by state law.

“It’s surprising to me how many communities don’t have a law like this,” said Mayor Gerard Jalbert. “We are not eliminating people from living in the city of South Portland. We are just saying there are some sensitive areas.”

No opposition to the residency restriction was expressed Monday during a public hearing held by the City Council.

But before the meeting, a spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine said her organization opposes such laws because they give the public a false sense of security while driving convicted sex offenders deeper into the shadows and away from the social services they need to rehabilitate themselves.

“We feel these types of ordinances are double punishment for those people who have already served their time,” said ACLU spokeswoman Rachel Healy.

She said there is no data that proves that moving sex offenders away from children prevents abuse. “We want to do everything we can to keep our children safe, but we need policies that are data driven,” she said.

In 2009, the Maine Legislature enacted a law that allows municipalities to adopt residency restrictions on certain types of sex offenders. Some communities, such as Gorham and Westbrook, had to loosen their sex offender residency rules after passage of the law.

Portland officials considered a residency ordinance in 2010 after officials learned that more than a dozen sex offenders were living in apartment buildings near Portland High School and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine. The proposal died in the City Council’s Public Safety Committee.

According to the Maine Sex Offender Registry, 23 registered sex offenders live, work or take college courses in South Portland. Police Chief Edward Googins has said that six of the 10 sex offenders who reside in the city live near schools or parks. Those people will be exempt from the new ordinance and will not have to move.

The ordinance passed Monday night will take effect in 20 days. The restrictions will apply to areas around 11 schools and 17 parks. Police will check to determine whether an offender’s address is within a restricted area when the offender moves into South Portland. If it is, the offender will have 30 days to move before the city can take legal action and start imposing fines of $500 per day.

“I am sensitive to the crazy world we live in,” said City Councilor Tom Blake, who has four children who grew up in South Portland and several grandchildren. “There are a lot of people in our society who our children need protection from.”

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]

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