Yarmouth weighs school buffer zone for sex offenders

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YARMOUTH — An ordinance that would restrict registered sex offenders from living near schools will be discussed by the Town Council.

Councilors on Feb. 4 are scheduled to review the newly drafted “Sex Offender Residency Restriction Ordinance” at a workshop meeting. The ordinance was drafted at the request of a resident who was uncomfortable about a sex offender living near local schools.

Yarmouth has two registered sex offenders, including Stefan Shaft, of Glen Road, which is between the high school and the middle and elementary schools. Shaft, 24, was arrested at his home Feb. 5, 2015 by the Computer Crimes Unit of the Maine State Police on a charge of possession of child pornography.

Dozens of images of child pornography were found on Shaft’s computer, and he was convicted of possessing sexually explicit material of someone under the age of 12. 

The other registered sex offender doesn’t live within the area restricted in the ordinance.

The ordinance would prohibit registered sex offenders convicted of Class A, B, or C offenses committed against children under the age of 14 from living within a 750-foot radius of schools and public areas that are designated for children, such as playgrounds.

A sex offender who lives within the buffer area prior to the adoption of the ordinance would be exempt, but a convicted sex offender could not move into a buffer area if one is established. 

The state doesn’t have laws that govern where sex offenders can live, but allows municipalities to create their own.

Town Manager Nat Tupper, who drafted the ordinance, said the buffer areas would be around the William H. Rowe School, Yarmouth Elementary School, Frank H. Harrison Middle School, Yarmouth High School and North Yarmouth Academy. On Monday he said he wasn’t sure yet which parks and playgrounds would be included, if any.

Resident Alison Hinson, who has a child in the school system, said she wants the ordinance enacted because she was surprised to learn the town didn’t already have one. Tupper said many towns in Maine don’t have this kind of ordinance; he said he spoke with officials in 14 towns surrounding Yarmouth and found that only five have such laws, including Falmouth.

“I think it’s important for other towns to know about this,” Hinson said.

Last fall Superintendent of Schools Andrew Dolloff notified parents to let them know a sex offender was living near the schools. Police Chief Michael Morrill said there have been no reported incidences of Shaft interacting with or bothering students.

Hinson said she knows nothing can be done about Shaft living near the schools, but she wants to make sure no others can move into the area. She said she’s received some criticism from people who have said she’s trying to push sex offenders to the outskirts of town, but that isn’t true.

“A lot of parents realize this is to keep (registered sex offenders) away from schools and playgrounds,” Hinson said. “It’s not intended to keep them out of town.”

Tupper said councilors are likely to send the ordinance to a committee so it can be discussed in more detail. It would then come back before the full council for approval.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

Registered sex offender Stefan Shaft lives within 750 feet of Yarmouth High School. A proposed ordinance would prohibit new sex offenders from moving into the area around town schools.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.