July 13, 2020

Dover-Foxcroft adopts sex offender policy > Landmark ruling allows town to notify residents

DOVER-FOXCROFT — A Dover-Foxcroft woman tearfully pleaded with selectmen Monday not to make public her address and the name of her live-in boyfriend, previously convicted of gross sexual assault of a minor.

Despite Carla Harris’ plea and the concerns she expressed for her three sons at home who, she said, will suffer from such public exposure, Dover-Foxcroft selectmen adopted a policy Monday that will allow them to notify the public when a convicted sex offender moves to town.

The policy adopted by selectmen is believed to be the first of its kind in Maine, according to a Dover-Foxcroft police detective.

While he supported the policy, Tom Sands, chairman of the Dover-Foxcroft Board of Selectmen, said Tuesday that “we’re all going to have to live with this policy.”

“I think [the policy] will cover anything that might arise,” he said. “I’m not saying that we should go out and put everybody [who has been convicted of sex crimes] on the front page of all the papers, but I think it shows that we’re responsible.

“We have something in place in case something does arise,” he said.

Sands said he would want his family to know if a convicted sex offender moved to his neighborhood.

In Portland, Police Chief Michael Chitwood has gained media attention for notifying the public about certain sexual offenders who have moved to his city. Although Portland has no written policy, Chitwood said Tuesday that he was following state law that basically gave police the right to notify a neighborhood where a person took up residence.

Speaking about Dover-Foxcroft’s adoption of a policy, Chitwood said the selectmen have taken the initiative to put a more formal policy in place.

“I applaud that,” he said.

It was after the Dover-Foxcroft board meeting and a hastily called police committee meeting Monday evening that local police released the name of Norman Dufresne, 40, who had moved to Dover-Foxcroft and had prompted the policy.

Dufresne, previously of Kennebec County, was convicted in 1993 of gross sexual assault on a minor and of unlawful sexual contact involving a girl under age 16. He was sentenced to eight years in prison, with all but two years suspended, and was placed on probation for six years, according to Detective Lt. Scott Arno of the Dover-Foxcroft Police Department.

Although there have been no further incidents involving Dufresne, Arno said it was simply a matter of keeping the public informed.

“The policy is encouraging the Police Department to take a look at these offenses because they do pose a risk,” he said after the police committee meeting.

The policy stipulates that the police, after consultation with the board’s police committee, will decide what cases need public notification based on the crime, the individual’s criminal history and prison records, presentence investigations and the potential for the person to reoffend.

The information will be issued in press releases, door-to-door notification, public meetings or on fliers. The policy also allows for the convicted offender to be notified of the public announcements.

Both Harris and Dufresne, who were notified that the policy would be addressed Monday, attended the selectmen’s meeting.

“The idea of having my address published is horrendous,” Harris told selectmen. She said if Dufresne’s background were publicized, he could end up losing his truck driving job. She said Dufresne had participated in counseling, and she did not feel he was a threat to her or to her children.

Dufresne didn’t comment during the meeting, and the couple left the meeting when the selectmen moved to another agenda item.

Although some Maine officials do notify residents when a sex offender moves to the community, Detective Arno said he could find no other such policy in existence in other communities. The Attorney General’s Office, which reviewed the document before its presentation to the board Monday, also believed it was a first, he said.

The idea for the policy came after Arno attended a training session where he was provided with a list of convicted sexual offenders. On that list was Dufresne, whose address was listed as Dover-Foxcroft.

Chitwood said Tuesdday that his department mails fliers to residents and visits neighborhoods to explain when certain sexual offenders move to an area. Most of those convicted of sexual offenses are under court supervision, and his department works closely with probation officers.

The Portland chief said police look specifically at individuals who have molested a child under age 10. If the psychological profiles suggest they might reoffend, the neighborhood is contacted, he said. This has occurred on nine occasions, Chitwood said.

“We’ve got a lot of them that move into the city of Portland,” the police chief said. Two years ago, there were more than 75 convicted sex offenders living in Portland.

The only Dover-Foxcroft selectman to vote against the policy as initially presented was Fred Brawn. The policy as first proposed would have allowed only the Police Department to determine notification. Brawn later supported an amendment that required the local police committee, composed of selectmen and police, to decide when residents would be notified.

Brawn also objected to notification for selected offenders.

“It should be the same for everybody. Keep it simple,” he said Monday night. Brawn also said he felt everybody should be treated the same.

“The law was passed that the public has the right to know, and I felt they should know about any adult convicted of any sexual offense of a felony nature,” the selectman reiterated Tuesday.

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