March 8, 2013

York County reorganizes police coverage in 14 towns

By Eric Russell erussell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Fourteen communities in York County that were covered on a rotating basis by Maine State Police troopers and York County sheriff's deputies are now covered by only one of those agencies.

In an effort to provide continuity of service, especially in investigations, law enforcement duties for the towns were divided between the two agencies effective March 1.

The state police now are responsible for Alfred, Dayton, Hollis, Lebanon and Lyman.

The York County Sheriff's Office is patroling Acton, Arundel, Cornish, Limerick, Limington, Newfield, Parsonsfield, Shapleigh and Waterboro.

"We had been looking at this for a while and we felt there was value in being able to focus on areas in the long term," said Col. Robert Williams, chief of the Maine State Police.

Over the past decade or so, the state police and the sheriff's office rotated towns on a monthly basis, which created problems.

For instance, if a state trooper opened a case at the end of a month, he or she would have to pass it on to a sheriff's deputy once the month ended or wait a full month to resume the case.

"I wish I didn't have to rely on state police at all, but there just isn't enough manpower," said York County Sheriff Maurice Ouellette. "This new arrangement makes sense because the communities will have a consistent presence."

York County ended up covering more towns than the state police because it has contracts with six towns, so a deputy is assigned to a specific town.

"This doesn't preclude collaboration with state police," Ouellette said. "We'll still work with them and with other agencies as needed."

Jason Cole, a selectman in Lebanon, said the shift was needed and appeared to work well in its first week.

"The feedback has all been positive so far," he said, and the state trooper assigned to patrol Lebanon can now focus on areas of concern identified by selectmen in recent months, including safety on the Carl Broggi Highway.

Williams said most counties in Maine have formal or informal agreements between their sheriff's departments and state police.

"They are usually crafted for the personality of each county, but geography plays a big role," he said.

The recent shift in York County is not necessarily permanent. Representatives for both agencies said adjustments can be made in six months or a year if they find that the arrangement does not work. 

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

erussell@pressherald.com

Twitter: @PPHEricRussell

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