BANGOR, Maine — Sex offenders who have been convicted of hurting children should not be allowed to live near schools or parks with playgrounds, says Bangor resident Angela Hoy, who has asked that Bangor impose new residency restrictions for child molesters.
When a child becomes the victim of a sex offender, “a lot of lives are ruined, and a child deals with it for the rest of their lives,” she said.
Hoy, who mentioned that two members of her family have been victims of pedophiles, made her plea Tuesday during a meeting with the City Council’s government operations committee.
After hearing from the police chief, director of the city’s health and community services and the local homeless shelter, along with Hoy and two other residents, the panel unanimously endorsed sending the proposal for its first reading at the next City Council meeting, scheduled for July 26.
The proposal ordinance would bar registered sex offenders with convictions involving children under the age of 14 from living within 750 feet of schools, both public and private, and public property where children are the primary users.
This would include parks that have playgrounds and areas such as public pools.
Hoy, a mother of five, said she was astonished when she recently learned that Bangor doesn’t already have restrictions in place barring child molesters — those required by law to register with the Maine Sex Registry — from living near areas where children often are.
“Bangor has more sex offenders than Portland,” she said.
Bangor is home to approximately 210 registered sex offenders, while Maine’s biggest city lists approximately 190. Not all of those who must register with the Maine Sex Registry are child molesters.
After hearing the city has no residency restrictions, Hoy hired attorney John Hamer, who created an ordinance proposal to restrict where felony sex offenders who have criminal histories involving young children can live.
“We’re talking real kids here,” he said. “Really young kids.”
Those convicted of felony crimes such as gross sexual assault or soliciting a child face penalties of up to five years for Class C crimes and up to 30 years for Class A offenses, Hamer said.
“These are very serious crimes that we’re talking about,” he said. “These are not misdemeanors.”
Under Hoy’s proposal, child molesters who fall within the 750-foot barrier would be grandfathered and would not be required to move, but those moving to Bangor would have to live outside the zones.
Anyone found in violation of the rules would be given a written warning that says they are in violation. A warrant for their arrest would be issued only if they decided not to move, Hamer said.
The 750-foot limit is part of a new 2009 state law, LD 385, that basically sets guidelines for municipalities that want to adopt residency restrictions for registered sex offenders.
“We think it’s a workable and reasonable order and it protects our children,” Hamer said.
The new rules would go far to help protect the city’s most vulnerable residents, “our children,” said Police Chief Ron Gastia.
The police chief warned parents not to be drawn into a false sense of security if the proposed ordinance is passed because “it does not prohibit anyone from visiting a park or being in an area,” he said.
When Councilor Pat Blanchette asked if a new ordinance would require a lot more work for the Police Department, Gastia said his department already keeps track of where sex offenders live so it would not cause a burden.
The government operations committee is scheduled to take up the matter again on Aug. 10.