Milford Considers Restrictions on Sex Offenders
Milford may adopt a bylaw that restricts where some registered sex offenders can live in town.
In the past year, two sex offenders have moved to Milford and told police they did so because the communities they were living in had adopted restrictions on where they could live.
Now, Milford is considering doing the same.
Milford has 77 people who live or work here who are registered sex offenders.
A bylaw drafted by Police Chief Thomas O'Loughlin and Town Counsel Gerry Moody would require the sex offenders with the most serious classifications to live at least 500 feet from facilities and spaces including churches, parks, schools, recreational facilities, elderly housing facilities, libraries or daycare centers.
In addition, the individuals would be prohibited from loitering for more than 15 minutes within 500 feet of bus stops, facilities for the elderly or people with intellectual disabilities, and other spaces.
Violations would be subject to up to a $300 fine and a criminal complaint.
The state classifies sex offenders in three levels, said O'Loughlin. The most serious are "Level 3" sex offenders, and the state Sex Offender Registry Board has determined "that the risk of reoffense is high, and the dangerousness posed to the public is such that a substantial public safety interest is served by active dissemination" of the offender's information to the public.
These are the individuals whose photos and information are shown in public spaces, including school entrances and the police station. Milford has 15 people living or working in town who are classifed as Level 3 offenders.
"Level 2" sex offenders have what the state has determined is a "moderate" risk of reoffense. Their information is available through police on request. Milford has 44.
"Level 1" sex offenders, where the risk of reoffense is low, are not publicly identified. Their information is maintained by police for law enforcement purposes only, O'Loughlin said. Milford has 16 people who are classifed in this level.
Two other sex offenders who have registered with Milford police have not been classified as yet. If sex offenders relocate here and do not register with police, they are arrested once police learn of their status, O'Loughlin said.
The proposed bylaw would require only Level 2 and 3 sex offenders to live outside the required 500-foot distance. Several exemptions would be provided, including for the mentally ill, who are living with a guardian, or for state-run group homes.
For the individuals who are already living in Milford, it would apply only to their future moves
"If they relocate now, they would have to comply with this," O'Loughlin said.
Milford Selectmen discussed the proposal Monday, and while members said they agreed with the purpose, they asked for more data on the sex offenders who are living, or moving, to town, and what other communities are doing in Massachusetts.
One aspect of the proposed bylaw would prevent landlords or property owners from leasing or selling a property within the 500-foot zone to a Level 2 or 3 sex offender. This element sparked some concern among selectmen.
Selectman William Buckley said he was concerned about the shift of responsiblity from sex offender to landlord, or property owner. "It puts a burden on the seller," Buckley said. "I want to put the burden on the offender."
The board agreed to discuss the bylaw at a future date, and possibly revise the language to prevent landlords or property sellers from "knowingly" renting or selling to an offender.
Board chairman Brian Murray asked for more information about how other Massachusetts communities have addressed the issue, and how many sex offenders have moved to Milford this year.
"I want to be convinced, in fact, that we need it," Murray said.
Murray, an attorney, said people can be classified as sex offenders for consensual relations, including among teenagers, where one is underage.
"To me, these blanket bylaws, while well-intentioned... also scoop up some of these other people that for a variety of circumstances, get put into that category," Murray said.
O'Loughlin explained that statuatory rape convictions could be classified by the state board as serious as a Level 3. "These are tough restrictions," he said, of the proposal. "I don't question that."