Information in this document is designed for: State and
local leaders, Citizens and Community Organizations.
Knowledge that a convicted sex offender has moved into your
neighborhood can be a frightening and overwhelming experience.
It can also bring on an intense reaction from parents, neighbors,
schools, and organizations in the community.
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,
· What are the limits of community notification laws?
· What resources are available to help me learn more about
the notification process?
This document will address many of these questions and concerns.
It will also provide suggestions on enhancing the safety
of the community as well as information on prevention of
child sexual abuse.
WHAT IS "COMMUNITY NOTIFICATION"?
· Community notification refers to a federal law that
mandates that local law enforcement disclose to the
public 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's address, past crimes,
method of perpetration, description and/or photograph,
and conditions of release to the public.
· Community notification laws are different from sex
offender registration laws, which simply require convicted
sex offenders who are living in the community to notify
the police of where they are living.
HOW AND WHEN ARE COMMUNITIES NOTIFIED?
· In Maine, community notification is authorized only
when it is deemed necessary to protect the public
from a specific offender being released from incarceration.
The determination of when community notification will
take place is the responsibility of the law enforcement
agency in the jurisdiction of where the sex offender
will reside. Each jurisdiction in Maine is able to
establish its own notification practices. Therefore,
there are many 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
that the public receives 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
· Notification is usually reserved for high-risk offenders
or offenders who have committed crimes against children.
WHY ARE CONVICTED SEX OFFENDERS ALLOWED TO LIVE
IN OUR COMMUNITY?
· When sex offenders (or any person who has been convicted
of a crime) have served their time in prison, they
are free to live and work where they choose. While
sex offenders may have some restrictions imposed if
they are still under supervision, the state is not
allowed to keep them in (or out of) of specific neighborhoods.
Though this may be frustrating, it is a protection
of constitutional rights.
WHO ARE THE PERPETRATORS OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE?
· Studies on who commits child sexual abuse vary in
their findings, but the most common finding is that
the majority of sexual offenders against children
are not strangers but family members or someone the
· 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
are vital components of personal safety. As a parent
or other responsible adult who has become aware of
the presence of a convicted sex offender, your first
decision will be whether or not to tell the child
of the sex offender and if so, what to tell the child.
· It is best not to share scary details about a specific
case or offender. Rather, let your child know that
the offender has hurt someone before and should be
avoided. Tell your children to let you or another
trusted adult know immediately if the offender approaches
them or their friends. Keep information general, as
this may protect them not only against the known offender
but others who may try to harm them as well. In other
words, it is most helpful if you talk about basic
safety in general terms and about situations or actions
rather than certain individuals.
NOW THAT THE COMMUNITY KNOWS THAT 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 a sex
offender is 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 today 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 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.
A sex offender can be anyone, so precautions need
to be taken at all times. Open communication between
parents and children are vital components of safety.
Review safety tips, and be aware of common lures.
· Remember that community notification is not about
chasing sex offenders out of our neighborhoods. Be
attentive and report any violations or suspicious
behavior the offender is engaged in, but DO NOT threaten,
intimidate, or harass the offender. An offender who
is put in a stressful state is more likely to relapse.
WHAT ARE WE AS CITIZENS PROHIBITED FROM DOING?
· Experts believe sex offenders are less likely to
re-offend if they live and work in an environment
free of harassment. Any actions taken against the
individual named in the notification, including vandalism
of property; verbal or written threats of harm; or
physical violence against this person, his or her
family, or employer, will result in arrest and prosecution
of criminal acts.
Available Resources to Communities
Assistance and support are available to those communities
in which a convicted sex offender has been or will
soon be released. Among the forms of available assistance
FACILITATION OF COMMUNITY FORUMS
Multi-disciplinary panels are available to facilitate
community meetings as a means to present sensitive
information to the public. Typically, such meetings
include an overview of the community notification
laws and practices. Misinformation is countered and
fears and concerns are addressed. Actions that citizens
can take to enhance the safety of their community
is emphasized. These panels generally consist of individuals
from varied backgrounds which may include representatives
from law enforcement, social services, clergy, and
mental health, probation, sex offender treatment providers,
and sexual assault advocates. For more information,
call your local sexual assault support center.
Speakers and consultants from your local sexual assault
support center in collaboration with Law Enforcement
and other service providers are available to schools,
churches, and other community organizations to help
use notification as an opportunity to educate their
Resources and Telephone Numbers
To report a crime against a child, contact
your local police department.
To report suspected child abuse within a family,
contact the Department of Health and Human
To get help and assistance, contact your local
sexual assault support center's statewide,
24-hour, confidential support line at
To view the registered sex offenders living
in Maine visit the State of Maine Sex Offender
Information contained in this document
is designed to enhance public safety and awareness.
However, no law can guarantee the protection
of our children. There is no substitute for
common safety precautions.
A Guide for Communities, Organizations
and Schools about Community Notification of
CONTACT YOUR LOCAL SEXUAL ASSAULT SUPPORT
CENTER FOR MORE INFORMATION
Statewide, 24-hour, confidential sexual
assault support line
For a link to one of Maine's sexual assault
support centers go to:
brochure was based on a brochure created
by the Cumberland County Child Abuse
and Neglect Council/Youth Alternatives.