BIDDEFORD — A new police unit that deals with a range of issues, such as vandalism, burglaries, alcohol and quality of life, was created about a month ago.

The Street Crimes Unit is working with the York County District Attorney’s Office ”“ as well as local agencies, such as the downtown revitalization organization Heart of Biddeford, the Downtown Development Commission and social service agencies ”“ to address issues in the downtown and in other areas of the city.

The unit operates “cafeteria style,” said Police Chief Roger Beaupre, when addressing the city council last week. Officers in the unit won’t be assigned to a particular area, but instead, their efforts will be directed to where there is a need.

For instance, said Beaupre, recently there was a vandalism spree on Wentworth Street. The tires of more than a dozen cars were slashed within a short period of time.

Normally, he said, that type of crime would be investigated as officers had time. However, officers with the Street Crimes Unit were able to work on the case immediately.

The crime was solved within two days, said Beaupre, and an arrest was made.

He said he’s been advocating for such a unit for 15 years, but there was a lack of manpower. City council was instrumental in getting more officers on the street and creating the unit.

Beaupre said with the new projects proposed to be constructed soon in the mill district, like a hotel, restaurant and residential complex in the Lincoln Mill, and a large residential complex in the Riverdam Mill, Biddeford is attracting more people.

With the creation of the Street Crimes Unit, he said, the police and other organizations are interconnecting, and “operating with a purpose” for the first time, to make the city a better and safer place to live.

Several city councilors said they think the creation of the Street Crimes Unit is an important and positive step for Biddeford.

Council President John McCurry said he “wholeheartedly” approves of the creation of the unit, and hopes its work will improve the city’s reputation.

Councilor Bob Mills said he’s already seen the positive impact of the unit’s work in the downtown area.

“This is just the beginning,” said Councilor Marc Lessard, of turning the city’s image around.

“I’m looking forward to us doing even more to make sure our city is the safest place to live in the state of Maine,” he said.

— Staff Writer Dina Mendros can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 324 or [email protected]

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