Sunday, March 9, 2014
OLD ORCHARD BEACH — Police on Monday announced the arrests of 46 people in a series of drug investigations over the past four months, part of a new strategy aimed at attacking the drug problem rather than reacting to it.
Police said they seized $155,000 worth of drugs including heroin, crack cocaine, methamphetamine, prescription drugs and steroids.
"This kind of activity is really nothing new, but I've assigned two people specifically to do these investigations," said Police Chief Dana Kelley. "It's not a culmination. It's where we are at to this point.
"We felt like we needed to get the word out, that this activity is not something we're taking lightly," he said.
The bust included the seizure of methamphetamine and eight pounds of marijuana that had been shipped to Maine from California, and 15 pounds of marijuana from Washington state, police said.
A dozen separate investigations are under way, Kelley said, by agencies including the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in Maine and Washington state, the U.S. Postal Service, the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Washington County Sheriff's Office.
Many are in response to residents reporting suspicious activity. Police expect more arrests.
Town Manager Mark Pearson said the drug problem has a direct effect on residents' quality of life.
"The drug network and the drug dealing and usage does have correlation to different crimes: shoplifting, crimes against people, crimes against property," he said, with burglaries and robberies of particular concern.
"It does affect the quality of life in neighborhoods. It affects property values," he said.
After getting complaints from residents about drug activity, Old Orchard Beach police began the crackdown this spring by reassigning officers from daily patrol shifts to the investigations.
The department has filled in patrol shifts when needed with supervisors or by using overtime, Kelley said. He said the department cannot sustain that indefinitely and will ask for budget support.
As long as the unit continues to show results, Pearson said, he will support funding for it.
"We're trying to work within the framework of our budget," he said. "In order to sustain it, we're going to have to appropriate some funds."
He said one investigation can lead to others, some unrelated to drug dealing. For instance, an arrest during the weekend led to information about someone who had not registered on the state Sex Offender Registry, as required.
Anyone with information about suspected drug activity is asked to call Sgt. Gerard Hamilton at 937-5837.
Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: