The Maine Department of Corrections Adult Community Center, a brick building at 125 Presumpscot St., is seen Wednesday in the background near the playground at Presumpscot Elementary School. The two properties share a fence line. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

A Maine Department of Corrections probation office recently moved from the Munjoy Hill neighborhood to Presumpscot Street in Portland, sparking rumors and fears among parents that children attending an elementary school next door will be in close proximity to sex offenders.

The Presumpscot Elementary School Family Council called a meeting at the school Wednesday night for parents to share their concerns and try to obtain more information about the functions of the office.

Some comments posted Tuesday to Mayor Ethan Strimling’s Facebook page suggested that the office provides psychotherapy for sex offenders, but that is untrue, said Christopher Arbour, regional correctional administrator for the probation office. Arbour said he’s also heard reports that people believe the office serves as a “halfway house,” which is also false.

“I have heard all kinds of things,” Arbour said in an interview Wednesday.

The probation office was previously located at 107 Washington Ave., but moved to 125 Presumpscot St. on Aug. 1 for additional office space and better parking, Arbour said. The same building also houses other state offices, including a motor vehicle registry. The elementary school is next door at 69 Presumpscot St., and the building housing the probation office is visible from the school playground.

Arbour said the probation office serves about 200 Portland residents who are required to periodically check in with probation officers, usually once every few weeks or less, depending on the terms of their probation. The severity of the crimes they committed varies, he said. People served by the office include ex-prisoners as well as those sentenced to probation instead of prison.

“Every person this office serves is already a member of our community,” Arbour said. “They are already living here.”

Arbour said he is meeting with Presumpscot principal Angie Taylor later this week, and will meet with any members of the community who have concerns. Taylor did not return a call from a reporter seeking an interview.

“These folks come in, and we provide services. Nobody is loitering here,” Arbour said. “People who are coming here are ready to make a change in their lives.”

Part of the role of the probation office is to connect people on probation with the services they need offsite, such as substance use treatment, housing or mental health counseling.

Strimling said he had only recently heard about the issue, and wants to learn more.

“Communication is always key, and it would have been good for the Department of Corrections if they had been in communication with the city early on,” Strimling said.

Presumpscot Elementary School is one of four schools set to be renovated after Portland voters approved a $64 million bond issue in 2017, but there have also been concerns that school leaders will decide to close the school.

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