Crime in Windham and Bridgton declined by 13% and 18%, respectively, in 2019, a rate of more than double the statewide decrease of 6%, according to a state report published last month.

Windham Police Chief Kevin Schofield and Bridgton Police Chief Phil Jones both attributed the drop in crime to their departments’ community outreach work, including with domestic violence survivor advocacy groups and substance use disorder recovery centers, which they said leads to greater awareness among citizens and a drop in crime.

“In my observations over the last 10 years, what I’ve seen is that law enforcement has become much more in-depth in networking and working with other entities to become more effective and efficient in the way we investigate offenses,” Schofield said.

Arrest data is only available by agency, or for towns with their own police force. Other towns in the Lakes Region are served by the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office so no town-specific data is available for Casco, Gray, Naples, New Gloucester, Raymond, Sebago and Standish.

Other than the offenses categorized as other assaults and all other non-traffic offenses, larceny – theft of personal property, except of motor vehicles – had the highest number of arrests in Windham in 2019. That was a decrease of 19%, from 70 arrests to 59, from the previous year, but still accounted for 22% of 269 total arrests made in Windham.

Schofield said in an interview this week that although 2020 crime figures are not official yet, larceny in Windham was down even further in 2020, which he attributed to the COVID-19 restrictions. With most of the reports and arrests related to retail theft, Schofield said he wasn’t surprised that with the greater vigilance paid to customers since the pandemic began that theft would decrease along with it.

In Bridgton, the number of driving under the influence arrests in 2019 was comparable to Windham’s numbers, at 40 arrests to Windham’s 43. DUI arrests in Bridgton decreased by 18% from 49 arrests the previous year. Bridgton has about a third of Windham’s population, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Jones said the numbers themselves “don’t concern me because it shows officers are being vigilant.” But impaired driving’s danger to the public does concern him, he said.

Windham’s number of DUI arrests in 2019 were down 20% from the previous year.

Drug abuse violations decreased by 75% in Bridgton in 2019, which Jones said he thinks is likely due to the decriminalization of recreational marijuana, though he said he didn’t have actual numbers offhand to support his claim.

In recent years, though, he’s seen a higher prevalence of “higher schedule” drugs such as fentanyl and heroin within the community.

Jones said he sees two distinct issues when it comes to drug-related crimes: there are those arrested for possession, for example, and who suffer from addiction and need treatment for substance use disorders, and the “bad people” selling and trafficking drugs who go through Bridgton on their way to Portland.

Both Schofield and Jones said that drug-related crimes and substance use and its treatment were among their top concerns looking forward.

Earlier this week, Cumberland County Sheriff’s deputies arrested a Norway man after a routine traffic stop on Route 302 in Naples led to deputies’ discovery of 253 grams of suspected fentanyl, 177 grams of suspected cocaine and nearly five grams of suspected crack cocaine, along with wads of cash and a firearm, according to a press release from the CCSO.

CCSO Chief Deputy Naldo Gagnon told the Sun Journal that “this case also reflects the extent of the drug problem in the Sebago Lake area.”

During a traffic stop in Gray in late December, deputies found 500 grams of fentanyl, $1,200 in cash, a gun and drug paraphernalia in the car. A related search warrant for a Naples hotel room found Carfentanil, a highly potent synthetic opioid. Four people were arrested.

The CCSO also announced earlier this month that two men pleaded guilty to kidnapping and other crimes related to a September 2019 incident over a drug debt that led to the non-fatal shooting of a Naples man.

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