Thursday, December 5, 2013
Police have a name for them, several names, actually.
David Maxwell McCaslin
Frequent flyers. Repeat offenders -- those people whose behavior, often fueled by drugs or mental illness, requires constant and time-consuming police involvement, but are seldom criminal.
They're a growing headache for police forces that are under-funded and over-worked.
When David Maxwell McCaslin, 71, of Winslow, was arrested in Waterville this month for allegedly assaulting a rescue worker, police knew exactly who he was. He was convicted of doing the same thing last month.
In fact, McCaslin has been the subject of more than 100 police calls.
Police say habitual offenders like McCaslin pose a problem without easy answers. If there is a crime, it's usually not serious enough to warrant lengthy jail sentences, so the cycle continues. Social services and courts can provide therapy and rehabilitation in some cases, but offenders often need to seek help voluntarily.
Police say McCaslin has only been arrested a few times, but they have dealt with him frequently for minor disturbances, including public intoxication, that Waterville Police Deputy Chief Charles Rumsey calls "order-maintenance issues."
In general, those can be noise, animal and harassment complaints or anything that requires police intervention, but don't necessarily result in arrests or summons.
"They aren't the very serious issues, but they are the types of issues that consume a lot of our time," Rumsey said.
Occasionally, the habitual offenders are arrested and the behavior stops; at least while they are in jail. When they get out, their behavior continues.
Time to howl
In Augusta, Lt. Chris Massey works from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., a time when frequent flyers are most prevalent. Massey regularly deals with about two dozen habitual offenders. He estimates the average call takes about 30 minutes, and they add up quickly.
"It's the repetitiveness that we have to deal with. Sometimes we deal with the same person two or three times in a shift. It's not enough to get them arrested, but it's enough that it requires a police response," he said.
If police had that time back, officers could turn their attention to better things, he said.
"We could be more proactive," he said. "We could be addressing the numerous speeding complaints we have in this town, or the car burglaries."
Massey said there's one frequent flyer in Augusta who has racked up more than 100 police incidents. She also calls police about three times a week with complaints of her own.
"She has some mental health problems, but doesn't meet criteria for treatment," he said.
Path of self-destruction
Rumsey said Waterville has about a dozen frequent flyers at the moment, but they don't rise to the level of McCaslin, Rumsey said. "He is in a class of his own."
McCaslin's granddaughter, Holly McCaslin, said her grandfather is on a path of self-destruction.
"He's beyond help at this point," she said. "He just doesn't care anymore."
McCaslin is a veteran of the Vietnam War and a former railroad worker. During the past five years, two of his adult sons died. Since 2002, Winslow police say they have responded to more than 100 incidents involving McCaslin, mostly within the past two years.
On Aug. 2, McCaslin was arrested by Waterville police on criminal trespassing, assault and violating conditions of release, on Sherwin Street. The incident began when McCaslin, who was drunk, knocked on a stranger's door and asked to use the telephone, Rumsey said.
McCaslin was allowed in, but was asked to leave soon after. He refused, and at some point fell and struck his head. The resident called 911 to have McCaslin's injury checked out and removed from the premises.
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