PORTLAND — Police officers went door to door in the city’s Parkside neighborhood Tuesday, passing out leaflets to warn residents about a convicted child sex offender living in their midst.
Chief Michael Chitwood said the neighborhood’s high concentration of children prompted what he described as the first use of fliers by police in Maine to spread the word about the presence of a convicted felon.
The fliers, bearing the headline “Recently Released!!!,” included mug shots and a description of Frederick C. Johnson, who was released Nov. 2 from Bucks Harbor Correctional Facility after serving 45 months of an eight-year sentence for gross sexual assault.
Johnson, 37, also has prior convictions involving narcotics and burglary, Chitwood said. “He’s a multiple risk offender,” the chief said.
As officers fanned out to distribute the fliers at apartments along Sherman Street, tenants agreed that the alert was a good idea.
Tammy Elwell said she planned to show Johnson’s picture to her young nieces and nephews, telling them “he’s a bad man” and instructing them to stay away if they see him.
“If he ever tried to hurt my kid, I would personally kill him,” said Elwell, who thought Chitwood was doing the right thing.
A civil libertarian, however, indicated that the chief had gone too far in stigmatizing an individual who had served his sentence.
“Our position is that if there is a need for notification, it should be the decision of the judge at the time of sentencing,” said Sally Sutton, executive director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union.
Sutton said the best way to deal with such offenders is to provide the resources that allow them to receive treatment while in prison and then be adequately supervised after they are released.
Chitwood said his department “looked at the legal ramifications” before going ahead with the fliers and found no reason not to proceed.
The chief took issue with state officials for not alerting his department that Johnson was out of prison and living in Portland.