A police cruiser approaches the intersection of Oxford and Elm streets Monday in Bayside. Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said the recent violence has generally involved confrontations between people who know each other, and is being treated “very seriously.”

A rash of violent incidents in and near the Bayside neighborhood is adding to the fears of residents who already had been asking the city to deal with minor crime, drug dealing and offensive behavior in the area.

Since April, there have been at least three stabbings and two shootings in the neighborhood, which is home to a cluster of social services providers and emergency shelters. And two people were injured in a shooting incident Sunday a couple of blocks away in East Bayside.

“It’s gotten a lot worse,” Carol Barlow said as she sat on the front steps of her Cumberland Avenue apartment building where she has lived for nearly 10 years. “I would never sit out here in the late evening by myself.”

The same fears were echoed Monday by other residents and visitors.

“You never know what’s going to happen with all these druggies and drug dealers around,” said Daniel Friend, 54, who lives in the apartment building next to Barlow’s.

Although neighbors agreed the string of incidents is unusual and worrying, city officials said they could not easily produce crime reports to statistically compare the violence during the past three-month period with violent crimes in previous years.


“The level of petty crime always increases in the summer. The more violent incidents are definitely unusual,” said Sarah Michniewicz, head of the Bayside Neighborhood Association.

Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said the recent violence does not appear to be random and has generally involved confrontations between people who know each other. However, he is concerned about the number of violent incidents – especially the shootings – that have occurred in Bayside. He said a shooting in Portland is “a rarity.”

“Crimes of violence in our community are a big deal for all of us and we treat them as such,” Sauschuck said. “We take them very seriously and we’re putting proper resources in place to address them.”

Bayside residents have been living in recent years with increasingly aggressive and unpredictable street behavior, fueled by substance use and mental illness. They say it’s not the people seeking help at the city’s emergency shelter who are causing problems, but others who do not use the shelters and only come to the neighborhood to prey upon the vulnerable people who stay at the Oxford Street Shelter and access day services, such as laundry and a soup kitchen, two blocks away at Preble Street.

Sauschuck recently said that only about 10 percent of the people using the shelters contribute to problems in the surrounding neighborhood.

The most recent violence occurred Sunday afternoon in East Bayside, an adjacent neighborhood to the east of Franklin Street. An 18-year-old woman and a 30-year-old man were wounded by gunshots during an altercation near Cumberland Avenue and Mayo Street.

Police said Monday that they are continuing to investigate and no charges have been filed. They have not described a motive in the most recent shooting, but believe they have identified everyone involved and do not think the public is at risk.


This follows five other violent incidents in Bayside proper, which is sometimes called West Bayside.

On June 26, a 45-year-old man was shot near the intersection of Oxford and Elm streets. A police officer observed the confrontation and heard the gunshots. The officer attended to the victim, who was critically injured. Police are still investigating and have not publicly identified the victim or charged a suspect.

On June 20, a 22-year-old homeless man was stabbed in front of the Preble Street social services center at Portland and Preble streets. Police arrested George Merrill, 46, on a charge of aggravated assault. The victim was treated for injuries that were not life-threatening, police said.

On June 7, a 35-year-old man from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, was stabbed near Oxford and Alder streets. Police found the man, who had non-life-threatening injuries, in South Portland, and said they believed they knew who else was involved in the stabbing.

On May 6, a 49-year-old woman was shot on Parris Street, and police said the suspect was a young white man with a silver semiautomatic handgun who fled the scene in a silver SUV. A neighbor said her husband heard the victim tell police that she was shot in the knee after confronting people who appeared to be smoking crack in a public way.

On April 5, a 35-year-old woman was dropped off at Maine Medical Center with multiple stab wounds. She told investigators that she was stabbed near 252 Oxford St. after a confrontation with a group of men she didn’t know.

Laura Cannon was home when the woman was shot in front of her Parris Street house on May 6. She said the increase in violence is making her feel less safe.


“People have been having fights in Bayside for a long time and they have not been pulling a gun out on each other with this frequency,” said Cannon, who has lived in the neighborhood for eight years. “This is not normal. It feels really scary. This level of gun violence is strange.”

For some who sleep at the Oxford Street Shelter, the violence has become part of their daily life.

“We all heard about” the May 6 shooting, said Dawn Algieri, 55, who said she has been staying at the shelter for a year. She thinks all of the violence stems from drugs and alcohol. “It will either get worse or there will be more people who are dead because of overdoses, shots and stabbings,” she said.

Rose Hagen, 30, said she has heard other shelter guests express concerns about the violence in recent weeks. But she said she’s from the Boston area, where this type of violence is more common. “I see this (expletive) every day,” she said.

Longtime residents said the situation only reinforces the need to rethink the concentration of emergency shelters, food and social services clustered in Bayside.

The city has proposed building a new 200-bed shelter on the Barron Center campus on Brighton Avenue. Some Nason’s Corner residents are already concerned that Bayside’s problems will soon follow, although officials insist the new shelter would be a completely different model. The new facility, they say, would have food, laundry and other services on site, so people don’t have to walk a several-block radius throughout the day.


Sarah Michniewicz, who has lived on Cedar Street for about 20 years and leads the Bayside Neighborhood Association, understands those fears. But she predicted that the troublemakers would likely stay in Bayside even if the shelter is moved to a new location.

“I think that they deserve to get clear answers on what kinds of steps would be taken to improve policing and improve neighborhood safety,” she said. “But I also know from the plans that have been suggested – and the shelter standards are much different than they were before – things that have been allowed at the Oxford Street Shelter are not the things that would be allowed at the new shelter. I don’t see them as comparable in any way.”

After speaking Monday morning with Sauschuck about the recent violence, Michniewicz said she is confident that police have a handle on the situation.

“The level of petty crime always increases in the summer,” she said. “The more violent incidents are definitely unusual.”

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

[email protected]

Twitter: randybillings

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