PORTLAND – After several years of being shuffled around, the West End Community Policing Center has a new home that’s expected to increase public safety in the heart of the urban neighborhood.
The center has moved into office space in the Reiche Community School building on Brackett Street. The space had been occupied by staff of the city’s recreation department. The building includes a public pool and a community center.
The recreation department staff is moving into a small part of the space formerly occupied by the Portland Public Library’s Reiche Branch, which closed at the end of June because of budget cuts.
The West End Neighborhood Association lobbied city and school officials for more than a year to move the community policing center into the Reiche Community School building, said Rosanne Graef, the group’s vice president.
“Reiche is the crossroads of the West End,” Graef said. “There are a lot of places for people to congregate, with the basketball court and the playground and the stores in the area. having the community policing center there, people will see that this neighborhood hangs together and looks out for each other.”
The West End also has a new police officer in charge of promoting public safety in the area.
Tony Ampezzan is the new senior lead officer in the West End and Parkside neighborhoods. He replaced Karl Geib, who recently retired after more than two decades in community policing.
“I requested the assignment,” Ampezzan said. “I like walking foot patrols and riding bike patrols and interacting with residents and business owners.”
Ampezzan said having a community policing center at Reiche will provide a good home base for interacting with students and providing a positive police presence in the neighborhood.
Portland has six community policing centers: West End, Parkside, Bayside, East Bayside, on Munjoy Hill and with the Portland Housing Authority.
Despite all of the planning that went into the West End center’s move, some parents of Reiche students have raised concerns in recent weeks, according to Graef and city and school officials.
Superintendent Jim Morse said he received a few e-mails from parents who were worried that police would bring crime suspects or sex offenders to the center.
“That’s not going to happen,” said Sgt. Chuck Libby, the police department’s supervisor of community services. “It’s not a substation where we would bring suspects or people involved in crimes. It’s an office for our community policing coordinator, who isn’t a police officer, and a place where our officers can stop in, write reports and organize crime-prevention programs.”
Libby said police officers usually bring crime suspects to the Cumberland County Jail after they are arrested, and rarely to the police station on Middle Street.
The West End center has its own exterior entrance, to the right of Reiche’s front entrance, where the city recently replaced a window with a door. City officials said they plan to hold a grand opening in the coming weeks.
The center was located in rented space at Danforth and May streets for more than a decade. A few years ago, budget cuts forced a move into Harbor Terrace, a high-rise apartment building for elderly and disabled residents that’s owned by the Portland Housing Authority. The housing authority charged $1 per month for the space.
In the past few years, the center moved back and forth between the two locations as the city and the neighborhood association struggled to cover rental costs.
For Sarah Colton, the West End community policing coordinator, the new location will make it easier to provide neighborhood services.
She often works out of the Reiche building, organizing free movie nights, after-school craft activities and a summer lunch program.
“It’s going to be better to keep track of activity around the school,” Colton said.
Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at: