A drug bust by Westbrook police at an apartment next to the Public Safety Building illustrates how bold criminals are getting these days.

Nicholas Demers, 20, is facing up to four years in prison, after police seized marijuana, oxycodone and drug paraphernalia during a raid on Haskell Street.

Demers, who has been charged with drug trafficking, lives at 9 Haskell St., which is within 50 feet of the police station and surrounded on three sides by the Public Safety Building parking lot. Living on the top floor, Demers’ windows are in clear view of the police station.

“It just shows you how brazen they are, selling drugs right on the police’s doorstep,” said Detective Sean Lally.

Normally a class B felony, Demers was charged with trafficking oxycodone within 1,000 feet of a drug-free zone – the baseball field across Main Street – which elevates the crime to a class A felony. He is also charged with trafficking marijuana, which is elevated from a misdemeanor to a felony within 1,000 feet of a drug-free zone. Westbrook police have passed the case onto the Attorney General’s Office, and Demers is currently out on bail after an arraignment in superior court in Portland Monday.

Demers faces a mandatory four-year jail sentence if convicted of the class A trafficking in a drug-free zone. According to Lally, this is the first case Westbrook police have had of trafficking in one of the drug-free zones established by state law and approved by the Westbrook City Council last year.

Westbrook Police Chief Paul McCarthy said officers entered Apartment 3 at 9 Haskell St. with a search warrant on Friday morning. The officers found several ounces of marijuana, over 1,300 milligrams of oxycodone, digital scales and drug paraphernalia, a number of double-edged knives and cell phones, and a large amount of cash, said McCarthy.

According to Lally, Demers was convicted of trafficking dangerous knives in 2005, but he has no drug trafficking convictions. Lally said police had recently received complaints about frequent, short-term visitors to the apartment. On Monday, Demers was in possession of 17 80-milligram pills of oxycodone with a street value of about $80 to $100 per pill. Lally said officers found a prescription bottle that originally could have held as many as 100 pills. He also said officers found about $35,000 in cash in the apartment.

“That just goes to show how much money is being made on the diversion of prescription drugs,” said Lally, who added that, unlike drugs like cocaine and heroin, with prescription drugs the buyer can be assured of a certain potency of the drug, which makes them more attractive. “With prescription drugs, you know what you’re getting.”

As far as the proximity to the police station, Westbrook School Resource Officer Dan Violette said he was a little surprised that someone would deal drugs out of a residence so close. “I was kind of taken aback that it was that close,” said Violette.

Violette said he has made about 10 arrests in the last six months within 100 yards or so of the police station, but those arrests were made at hang-out spots such as the ramp park, the public pool and Black Bridge, where people sometimes leave graffiti. In that respect, the police station is centrally located near a number of potential spots for criminal activity, he said.

Westbrook Court Officer Peter Youland, a 20-year veteran of the police department, said he’s seen this happen before, particularly at the old Cumberland Mills police station. He said people sometimes feel a false sense of security that the police can’t touch them no matter how close to the station they are. They feel they’ll never get caught, he said.

“There have been arrests that close to the police station before,” said Youland. “People feel safe in their homes.”

Youland said in the mid 1980s a series of arrests was made at an apartment building on Cumberland Street before the Rite-Aid was built. But this arrest was even closer.

“Can you imagine having all that cash and drugs and being that close to the police station?” he asked.

Westbrook police raid house, 50 feet from stationNicholas Demers is facing up to four years in prison, after police seized marijuana, oxycodone and drug paraphernalia during a raid on Haskell Street.

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