Public Safety Subcommittee Notes
The City Council’s Public Safety Subcommittee met Tuesday, May 10, 2022. The following items were discussed by Subcommittee members Councilors Ayn Hanselmann, Becky Brink and Jonathan Martell with members of the Police Department and other City staff.
BHS Grants: Police Chief Craig Andersen announced that the Police Department has received $28,400 in grants from the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety to use for enforcement of impaired driving, speeding and occupant safety (seatbelt) laws. Additional funding for distracted driving enforcement is expected to be received as well. He said these grants will dovetail nicely with the newly created position of Traffic Officer, and allow the Department to be more flexible with scheduling and to assign other officers as needed.
Substance Use Disorder Grant: Deputy Chief Eric Small announced that Sanford is one of four communities awarded grants under the state’s Substance Use Disorder Program. The award of $26,000 will be used to fund 16 hours a week of case management for one year by the social worker who will be assigned to the Mental Health Unit. Chief Andersen noted that the resignation of the City’s grant writer, Lee Burnett, is being felt by department heads who have to write and follow through on grant applications themselves, which is a time consuming process.
Cops at Stops: Sgt. Eddie Murphy reported that the Cops at Stops initiative, a partnership with Ledgemere Transportation, is off to a great start. During this month-long program, members of the City’s Police force are interacting with kids waiting for the school bus, talking to them and handing out trinkets. DC Small said Ledgemere has been great to work with and they are very much appreciated.
Criminal Investigations: Lt. Matt Gagne provided the following updates:
- The Evidence Response Team has finished training. Six officers got advanced training in crime scene processing and photography, to supplement the work of the patrol units and detectives. He is working on finishing up the policy before they are deployed.
- Intelligence has been received on an ATM theft ring operating throughout New England. A group of individuals has been stealing vans and using them to steal ATM machines. He wanted the public to be aware and report any suspicious activity, in case the gang comes to Sanford.
- The Criminal Investigation Division was part of a multi-agency investigation involving an individual stealing checks out of mailboxes, and using them to create fake IDs. The US Postal Service and US Attorney’s Office were involved, and took over the investigation. Stolen items were recovered from a storage unit in Sanford.
- Cyber-related crimes, including bank fraud and identity fraud through phishing emails and scams, are taking up more of the detectives’ time.
- The CID has also been conducting background investigations for prospective City employees.
School Resource Officers: Lt. Gagne said the SRO’s wanted to pass along that vape pens are becoming a big issue at both the High School and Middle School. The officers are confiscating several a week, sometimes several a day. A sting operation was conducted to catch an adult who is supplying vape pens as well as alcohol to students. Parents are asked to pay attention and check backpacks. Chief Andersen added that the Department is advertising for a backup SRO to fill in.
Courts: Lt. Gagne reported that the York County court system is back to full capacity and is all caught up on Sanford cases.
Substance Use: Detective Colleen Adams said that Lacey Bailey, the OPTIONS clinician, has been stuffing harm reduction bags at York County Jail, which are given to those leaving jail. The bags contain information on recovery options and support services, as well as Narcan and fentanyl test strips. She will be doing the same thing at Southern Maine Health Care next week for patients who have identified as having substance use disorder. About 500 bags are being readied between the two agencies. Ms. Bailey is also at the Peer Support Center on Washington St. every other Wednesday from noon to 2:00 p.m., providing Narcan to anyone who requests it.
Homelessness: Det. Adams said she has been seeing more activity with the weather turning warmer. Portland is no longer taking asylum seekers or homeless, as there is nowhere to put them. The shelter in Alfred still has beds available sometimes. The major project she has been working on is contacting large property owners near the downtown to get their authorization to cite people for trespassing if they are camping or vandalizing on the properties.
Animal Control Contract: Chief Andersen and Animal Control Officer Lauren Masellas spoke about a proposal to take stray dogs to Pope Memorial Humane Society in Dover, NH, rather than the Animal Welfare Society in Kennebunk. AWS charges a rate based on Sanford’s population, rather than on the number of animals it takes in. The current year’s contract is costing $28,908. ACO Masellas has taken an average of 64 stray dogs and cats to AWS each year for the past three years, which works out to $482 per animal. PMHS charges a per animal fee of $50 rather than a per capita fee, which would save Sanford taxpayers a substantial amount of money. Berwick and South Berwick PD’s currently use PMHS, so there is precedent for crossing state lines. PMHS only takes dogs, however, not cats. For the cats, the Department is in discussions with Another Chance Animal Rescue here in Sanford. It is expected that the cost there would also be $50, and because it is right here in town, would be much easier for people to reclaim their stray cats.
Winter Parking Ban: The Subcommittee discussed a list of possible streets where there is currently a winter parking ban, with the possibility of eliminating the ban. No decisions were made, but more information will be gathered for further discussion.
Covid Update: Community Development Director Ian Houseal provided an update on Covid stats. He said hospitalizations increased over the previous weekend to approximately 50% of state capacity, about the same as a year ago. He said the current surge in cases is worrisome and doesn’t suggest a positive outlook for next fall and winter. Vaccination level in Sanford/Springvale is 74%, and 70% in York County as a whole. However, only 46% of kids age 5-11 in York County have been vaccinated. “I wish we could do a better job of at least getting one dose in people’s arms at this point,” he said.
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