BANGOR, Maine — The city of Bangor has more sex offenders per capita than any other community in Maine. One man — Bangor police Detective Erik Tall — is assigned to keep track of them.
All 192 of them, by the latest count.
The 38-year-old has been with the Bangor force for 14 years, but he’s been in charge of overseeing the city’s sex offenders only for the last 18 months.
Most days, Tall is in his office by 6 a.m. The morning hours are spent updating sex offender databases, of which there are many. His department has its own database. The county has a database. The state has its database.
With a click of his mouse, Tall can pull up the file of a convicted sex offender and tell you the last time he made contact with them and a whole host of other details.
In the afternoons, Tall leaves his office and does one of two things: He either goes door to door checking the whereabouts of registered offenders, or he notifies neighbors that a sex offender has moved into the area. Offenders are required to update police of their physical address every 90 days. If an offender moves, he or she has 24 hours to alert Tall or another officer of the new address.
For Bangor residents who don’t spend a significant amount of time scouring Maine’s online sex offender registry, they can rest assured that Tall has their back.
Even though the state doesn’t have mechanisms for risk assessment, Tall does his own assessment. He knows which offenders need to be more closely watched, which can be trusted.
In addition to Tall’s daily efforts, the Bangor Police Department keeps a thick binder in the lobby of the police station that has information on all offenders. The public can access it any time the department is open.
Since about 70 percent of Bangor’s offenders are lifetime registrants, rather than 10-year registrants, Tall predicted the number will only continue to grow.
On a recent afternoon, Tall left the office to complete a handful of house checks. Most offenders lived in inexpensive rental properties in old buildings near downtown. They are likely the only places many offenders can afford, the detective said. It’s also part of the reason Bangor houses so many offenders. Affordable housing is tough to find in other communities.
And Bangor has other services, such as counseling, within walking distance.
At a multiunit building near downtown, Tall knocked on a door. It had two signs. One read “Faith Family Friends.” The other read “No Trespassing.”
A neighbor in the building walked by and asked Tall what he was doing there.
“Checking in on sex offenders,” the detective replied.
“The old man. He’s on the list?” the neighbor asked. “What did he do?”
Tall told him the man’s history, that he had sexual contact with a victim under the age of 14.
“Oh. Wow,” the neighbor said and walked away.
The offender does not answer the door. He’s not home.
Some days, Tall said, he checks on 30 to 40 offenders. Other days, he makes contact with only two or three. If he’s made contact with an offender, they move to the back of his list.
Most offenders are hospitable to him when he comes knocking.
At another apartment, an offender named Scott answers the door.
“You’re still here?” Tall asks him.
“Yup,” the man replies.
“How’s everything going?” The detective continues a brief conversation with Scott and then leaves, crossing his name of the list.
Tall estimated that less than half of Bangor’s offenders work full time. The job market remains tough, but it’s doubly tough for a sex offender. Tall said he recently made a call to an employer verifying information that one of his offenders told him. The man was terminated immediately.
The detective is at the point where he knows most by name. He would recognize them if they were walking down the street.
At another residence, Tall knocks on the door. No one is home.
“I’ll have to come back. He’s new on my list,” he said.
Often he checks the mailbox. If they are getting mail at the address, they probably live there. If the mail has piled up, they might be elsewhere. If they have a girlfriend or parent in the area that they stay with, Tall wants to know about that, too.
The detective tracked another offender, Casey, who was getting ready to move. He didn’t know to where.
“I don’t have a lot of money, so I could stay in my car for a while,” Casey said.
“Even if you end up staying in a parking lot somewhere, you let us know,” Tall said. “We want to know where you are.”
“I’m not looking to hide,” Casey replied.