Sex Offender Community Notification
Sex Offender Notifications/Resources
WHAT IS “COMMUNITY NOTIFICATION?”
· Community notification refers to laws that require local law enforcement to publically disclose relevant information about certain convicted sex offenders upon their release from prison, work release, or another secure facility. Such information may include the sex offender addresses, past crimes, description of offenses for which they have been convicted, physical descriptions and/or photographs, and conditions of release.
· Community notification laws are different from sex offender registration laws, which simply require convicted sex offenders in communities to notify police of where they are living.
HOW AND WHEN ARE COMMUNITIES NOTIFIED?
· In Maine, community member notifications (as well as the extent of them) are determined by law enforcement agencies serving the particular community. Agencies must notify community members only when determined appropriate to ensure public safety. While there are minimum standards regarding law enforcement policies for such notifications, to some extent, jurisdictions in Maine may establish their own notification practices. Therefore, there may be variations of community notification practices from one geographic area to the next.
WHY AREN’T COMMUNITIES INFORMED OF ALL SEX OFFENDERS WHO ARE RELEASED FROM PRISON?
· The intent of the community notification law is for communities to receive information that is RELEVANT and NECESSARY to enhance its safety. Not all sex offenders pose a risk to all residents, and knowing about every convicted sex offender does not necessarily enhance safety.
WHY ARE CONVICTED SEX OFFENDERS ALLOWED TO LIVE IN OUR COMMUNITY?
· Once sex offenders (or any persons convicted of crimes) have served their time in prison they are free to live and work where they choose. Though this may be frustrating to community members, it is a Constitutional right protection afforded to them. At the same time, however, some sex offenders may have some restrictions imposed on them if still under supervision once released (e.g. probation). In such situations, law enforcement agencies and/or probation officers periodically check on offenders in order to insure conditions are being adhered to.
RESOURCES AND TELEPHONE NUMBERS
To report crimes against children contact jurisdictional law enforcement (1-207-985-6121).
To report suspected child abuse contact the Dept. of Health & Human Services (1-800-452-1999).
For assistance contact the statewide Sexual Assault Support Center’s confidential and 24-hour support line (1-800-871-7741).
To view Maine registered sex offenders visit the State of Maine Sex Offender Registry: http://www.informe.org/sor/
Information contained in this section is designed to enhance public safety and awareness. However, no laws can guarantee the protection of our children. There are no substitutes for common safety precautions.
A Guide for Communities, Organizations and Schools about Community Notification of Sex Offenders
Information in this brochure is designed for: State and local leaders, citizens and community organizations.
Knowledge that convicted sex offenders have moved into your neighborhood can be a frightening and overwhelming experience. It can also bring on an intense reaction from community parents, neighbors, schools, and organizations.
SOME OF THE MOST OFTEN ASKED QUESTIONS INCLUDE:
· What does this mean?
· How can this happen?
· What do we tell our children?
· How do we support our community and calm people’s fears?
· What are the roles and responsibilities of parents, communities, and schools?
· What are the limits of community notification laws?
· What resources are available to help me learn more about the notification process?
WHO ARE THE PERPETRATORS OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE?
· Studies on those who commit child sexual abuse vary in their findings; however, the most common finding is that the majority of sexual offenders against children are not strangers but, rather, family members or someone the child knows.
· Research further shows that men are most often perpetrators, although there are cases in which women are also offenders.
· Despite a common myth, homosexual men are not more likely to sexually abuse children.
WHAT SHOULD WE TELL OUR CHILDREN IN THE COMMUNITY ABOUT THIS SEX OFFENDER WHO HAS MOVED INTO OUR NEIGHBORHOOD?
· Open communication between parents and children is a vital component of personal safety. As parents or other responsible adults who have become aware of the presence of convicted sex offenders, your first decision will be whether or not to tell children about sex offenders and, if so, what to tell them.
· It is best not to share scary details regarding specific cases and/or offenders. Rather, let children know that offenders have hurt someone before and should be avoided. Tell children to let you or another trusted adult know immediately if offenders approach them or their friends. Keep information general, as this may protect children not only against known offenders but also others who may try to harm them as well. In other words, it is most helpful to talk about basic safety guidelines in general terms and about situations or actions rather than certain individuals.
NOW THAT THE COMMUNITY KNOWS A SEX OFFENDER LIVES IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD WHAT SHOULD WE DO DIFFERENTLY TO PROTECT OUR CHILDREN AND OURSELVES?
· Although it is alarming to be notified that sex offenders are living in your neighborhood, knowing of a specific offender generally does not assure safety. In fact, there are thousands of sex offenders living in Maine, and you may already be living near one of them. It is best to practice general safety strategies ALL THE TIME and learn to recognize potentially dangerous situations in order to protect yourself.
· While the new community notification law allows law enforcement to tell you about some sex offenders, this is not a guarantee of safety from sex offenses. It is important to know that sex offenders cannot be identified by looks, race, gender, or occupation. Sex offenders can be anyone, so precautions need to be taken at all times. Open communication between parents and children is a vital component of safety. Review safety tips, and be aware of common lures.
· Remember that community notifications are not about chasing sex offenders out of neighborhoods. Be attentive and report any violations or suspicious behavior offenders are engaged in, but DO NOT threaten, intimidate, or harass them. Offenders who are put in stressful states are more likely to relapse.
AS CITIZENS WHAT ARE WE PROHIBITED FROM DOING?
· Experts believe sex offenders are less likely to re-offend if they live and work in environments free of harassment. Any actions taken against individuals named in notifications, including vandalism of property; verbal or written threats of harm; or physical violence against them, their family and/or employer will result in the arrest and prosecution of criminal acts.
AVAILABLE RESOURCES TO COMMUNITIES:
Assistance and support are available to communities in which convicted sex offenders have been or will soon be released. Among the forms of available assistance are:
#1) FACILITATION OF COMMUNITY FORUMS: Multi-disciplinary panels are available in order to facilitate community meetings as a means to present sensitive information to the public. Typically, such meetings include an overview of community notification laws and practices. Misinformation is countered and fears and concerns are addressed. Actions citizens can take to enhance community safety are emphasized. Such panels generally consist of individuals from varied backgrounds, which may include representatives from law enforcement, social services, clergy, mental health, probation, sex offender treatment providers, and sexual assault advocates. Additional information can be obtained by calling local Sexual Assault Support Centers.
#2) CONSULTATIONS: Speakers and consultants from local Sexual Assault Support Centers, in collaboration with law enforcement and other service providers, are available to schools, churches, and other community organizations in order to help use notifications as an opportunity to educate communities.
This information was based on a brochure created by the Cumberland County Child Abuse and Neglect Council/Youth Alternatives