By Zendelle Bouchard
If you’ve noticed there are fewer people congregating in Central Park than there have been for the past few months, there’s a good reason. Officers from the Sanford Police Department recently conducted two operations in Central Park, arresting three people and issuing trespass notices to three others.
Following an increase in complaints of drug use and disturbances in the Park, the operations began with surveillance by plain clothes officers from the patrol and detective divisions, who observed criminal activity occurring. On Thursday, August 17, 2023, the first operation resulted in one arrest for operating after suspension and another on an outstanding warrant. A follow up operation on Tuesday, August 22, resulted in another person being taken into custody on a warrant. There were no arrests for drug trafficking during either operation, as has been rumored.
The trespass notices mean that the individuals are barred from using the Park for one year; if they return, they will be charged with trespassing.
Since then, the SPD’s patrol division has increased foot patrols in the downtown area, including Gateway Park and the Midtown Mall, to deter any further criminal activity. Visitors to the City’s parks must also abide by park rules, which include no smoking or drinking alcohol. The parks close at 11 pm.
Major Matthew Gagné told the Sanford Springvale News that the purpose of the police actions was to make sure Central Park is safe for all residents to enjoy.
The Park had become a gathering place for many unhoused residents in the City following the May 24 closure of the Peer Support Center on Washington Street. The City is actively assisting the Center, which is run by Maine Behavioral Health, to find a new location.