May 28, 2018
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Bangor tables sex offender ordinance change

By Eric Russell, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — A proposed ordinance amendment that would place restrictions on where some registered sex offenders can live was tabled indefinitely Wednesday by city councilors.

Angela Hoy, the Bangor resident who has been working for months to develop residency restrictions, said she was surprised and disappointed with the council’s decision but undeterred in her fight.

“We assumed it would be resolved tonight, but we’re not changing anything,” she said outside council chambers after the vote, surrounded by about a dozen supporters. “We’re working for [Bangor’s] children.”

Councilors indicated that they likely would revisit the ordinance amendment at a later workshop and then bring it back to the council for another vote.

The amendment as drafted would create 750-foot buffers around schools, parks, playgrounds and other areas where children are the primary users. The change would not apply retroactively, which means sex offenders now living within the restricted zone would not be forced to move. The restrictions also would apply only to offenders who have committed felonies against victims under the age of 14.

Councilor Geoff Gratwick, who last month unsuccessfully requested an additional council workshop, has called the ordinance change “a feel-good law” that would not improve public safety.

Pat Blanchette agreed with Gratwick and said Bangor should wait to impose any restrictions until the state Legislature revisits provisions of the online sex offender registry early next year.

“If we do this now, we could be backpedaling,” she said, adding that she didn’t think the ordinance had any teeth. “I cannot support a false security blanket.”

Cary Weston sharply disagreed with the council’s decision to postpone, calling it an insult to Hoy and the many other supporters who turned out Wednesday.

“We’ve had plenty of time,” he said.

Hoy first brought the idea to the city in July and even enlisted a local attorney to help crafted the ordinance, which mirrors the 750-foot limit that was spelled out by LD 385, a state law passed last year.

In August, the council’s government operations committee forwarded the ordinance change request to the full council.

If the ordinance amendment had passed Wednesday, it would have made about one-third of Bangor unavailable to offenders, including a large part of the urban core, where many rental properties are located.

Bangor has more than 200 registered sex offenders living within the city limits, although it’s unclear how many of them have committed felonies on victims under age 14. Offenders are required to register with the state’s online database and are monitored regularly by a Bangor police officer.

Before making the motion to table, Gratwick said the issue is fraught with emotion but needs further study. Many public safety officials, both locally and at the state level, have said residency restrictions often do more hard than good.

The vote to table was 7-2. Weston and Blanchette voted against the measure but for different reasons: Blanchette said she felt the city should have killed the proposal entirely rather than revisit it.

Hoy said she believes some members of the City Council have been influenced by special interest groups in the last few weeks. Asked to clarify, she said: “There are organizations that profit from keeping sex offenders in Bangor.”

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