February 24, 2013

Complaints about behavior keep neighborhood prosecutor busy

By Randy Billings rbillings@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — Downtown businesses have been expressing concern that unruly behavior is making the city less hospitable.

Enter Trish McAllister, hired as the city's neighborhood prosecutor in 2010. Her job is to follow up on quality-of-life issues and ordinance violations.

Some of the most prominent issues in her tenure include the adoption of an anti-graffiti ordinance and online reporting system; a disorderly houses ordinance that inspired others in South Portland and Biddeford; littering; and congestion caused by street art vendors.

Her position was originally funded with a grant, but in 2011 the city included the full-time position in its operating budget.

Since then, McAllister said she has prosecuted about 150 ordinance violations. She also handles criminal forfeiture cases for the police and property violations for the Fire Department and Code Enforcement office.

She also worked with the police chief and the Homeless Voices for Justice to amend criminal trespass codes relating to public property to allow for an appeals process.

Mayor Michael Brennan recently helped McAllister convince the courts to hear nuisance complaints and ordinance violations, including parking tickets, during a half-day session on the second Monday of each month.

That will allow the violations, which are a big deal to residents and businesses but can seem trivial when heard after a murder case, to get the attention they deserve.

Meanwhile, state Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland, has submitted a bill – L.D. 381 – that would allow municipalities to require ordinance violators to perform community service in lieu of paying fines.

While some might say the city is wasting its time on small-time crime and nuisances – such as Robert Smith, The Whistler – McAllister sees things differently.

"That's what people are upset about in the city," she said. 

Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:


Twitter: @randybillings


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