PORTLAND — Police Chief James Craig stood in front of 182 Grant St. on Monday to serve notice to drug dealers that that section of Portland is now off-limits.

The three-story apartment building behind him was quiet, but until two weeks ago it was a magnet for trouble, police say, with people coming and going to buy drugs, drink and intimidate neighbors.

The building was the target of a police search Oct. 22, the third in the neighborhood in the past month and a half, netting a total of 18 arrests and $5,600 in crack cocaine, powder cocaine and heroin, as well as two guns.

“Our message is clear,” said Craig, flanked by community leaders and members of his community services section. “Drug dealers are not welcome here. We will find you and we will arrest you.”

Police also searched two apartments on different days at 142 Grant St., one of which was raided by the department’s special reaction team because of the presence of guns. In addition to drug charges, one man, Modou Fall, was charged with possessing a dangerous knife.

Two weeks later, Fall was arrested on Grant Street and charged with using a knife to rob a man on Congress Street.

Drug activity attracts other crime, say police.

“The cocaine is what brings on the violent activity,” Craig said. “We have the street robberies. We have the attacks, the assaults. There’s been reports of prostitution.”

Craig said the crackdown includes a message for landlords, that they must clean up their buildings and screen tenants or they will suffer sanctions. A landlord can be cited under city ordinances if their property becomes a nuisance, and can lose eligibility to rent to people with government rental vouchers.

Emma Holder, an officer in the Parkside Neighborhood Association who lives at Mellen and Grant streets, said landlords must take more responsibility. “It’s also a lot of absentee landlords who don’t necessarily screen the quality of tenants they have,” she said.

A telephone call to one of the owners of 182 Grant St. was not returned.

Roy Bagley, an owner of 142 Grant St., declined comment.

Some landlords have lost tenants because of criminal activity, police say.

A resident of 182 Grant St. who did not want to give his name said police have cleaned up the area before, only to have problem residents slowly work their way back into the neighborhood. But he said he supports the police effort, because it makes the neighborhood safer.

Residents’ support is key to the crackdown’s success, say police.

City Councilor David Marshall, who represents the area, said residents also must work with each other to clean up trash and run-down buildings, which can invite crime.

“It’s the day-to-day activities that are most important to improve the quality of our neighborhoods,” he said.

 

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: [email protected]