Monday, March 10, 2014
SACO - Police are increasing patrols in some parts of the city after the arrests of three men within a week on charges of unlawful sexual contact or exposing themselves in the woods.
Saco Deputy Police Chief Jeff Holland, seen at Cascade Falls Thursday, said police are checking for “suspicious and illicit behavior” in the family-friendly park.
John Patriquin/Staff Photographer
All three arrests occurred during the daytime, and two of them were made at a park that has been popular with families for generations.
Police in neighboring communities are looking out for similar behavior and keeping an eye on websites where men arrange to meet in wooded areas for illicit sex.
"These things probably happen in every city and town. It's not unique to Saco," said Deputy Police Chief Jeff Holland.
Police first got complaints from near Cascade Falls, a popular hiking trail near Route 1, early last week. The reports prompted police to check for "suspicious and illicit behavior" in the family-friendly park, Holland said.
In the past, police have dealt with issues at the park connected to vandalism and partying.
On April 30, Police Chief Brad Paul reported that he saw Daniel J. Latham, 54, of Yarmouth walking naked on a trail near Cascade Falls. Latham, who initially ran from Paul, was arrested on a charge of indecent conduct.
Two days later, an undercover officer walking on the trail encountered Allen Hahn, 64, of Old Orchard Beach. After a brief conversation, Hahn allegedly stepped toward the officer, grabbed the officer's genitals through his clothing and said, "Are we doing this?"
Hahn was charged with unlawful sexual contact and assault.
Roy I. Fortin, 57, of Biddeford was arrested Monday on a charge of indecent conduct after police investigated a complaint about suspicious activity in a wooded area behind the commuter parking lot on Industrial Park Road.
Holland said Fortin exposed his genitals to an undercover officer in a wooded area where police had received complaints of similar behavior.
Holland said police are responding by increasing patrols of the Cascade Falls trails and the commuter lot, with both uniformed and undercover officers.
Officers also are keeping an eye on other secluded areas, he said. The extra patrols will continue indefinitely.
"We're probably just going to drive them to a different location, which is unfortunate," Holland said.
Elaine Vadenboncoeur, president of Saco Bay Trails, said the organization has received several complaints from people who visited the park and is now "working hard with the city and police to rectify the situation."
Saco Bay Trails and the city are working to raise money to improve the trail system.
"We will be installing additional signage and are in the process of requesting a street light to be installed in the parking lot," Vadenboncoeur said in an email. "This is a beautiful spot that we have and we want people to be able to enjoy it."
Since the late 1800s, Cascade Falls has been a popular area for picnicking, fishing, hiking and viewing the falls. The area stood in for the Yukon for a silent movie that was filmed there in the 1930s.
In the 1950s, a bear in a cage entertained people who hiked through the woods to view the falls. The trails' popularity has increased in the last few years as improvements were made.
In neighboring Scarborough, police Chief Robert Moulton said his officers are keeping an eye out for behavior similar to what officers have seen in Saco but have not seen anything.
He said he cannot think of any arrests for similar incidents during his 36 years with the department.
"We're thinking of areas in town where we could experience that type of issue and we'll be monitoring them closely," Moulton said.
Police in Biddeford and Old Orchard Beach are paying special attention to wooded areas and remote parking lots that could draw people who want to engage in illicit behavior.
Despite the arrests, hikers on the Cascade Falls trail said Wednesday that they won't be deterred from enjoying the area.
Jennifer Chase of South Portland, who often walks her dog on the trail, said she is now leery of hiking there by herself, but is more concerned the illegal activity will ruin the area for others.
"It's a beautiful place (and) this makes it dirty," she said.
Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at: