RUMFORD — A Portland TV station’s recent report on arrests by the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency in 2017 did not list any in Rumford.
Police Chief Stacy Carter said that’s because local investigations resulted in arrests in Mexico, Dixfield and East Dixfield.
“Just because the arrests are not physically made in Rumford doesn’t mean there’s not a problem or that work is not being done,” Carter said.
He said that in 2016, the Rumford Police Department and the MDEA were “very busy conducting drug-trafficking investigations which resulted in numerous search warrants and arrests made throughout our Operation Hot Spot-designated areas. This did exactly what was intended and pushed these dealers out of town.”
Operation Hot Spot, going on three years in Rumford, is a collaboration among local, county, state and federal law enforcement working as a unit to address criminal activity.
Carter noted that unfortunately, Operation Hot Spot has not yet pushed the dealers out far enough. Rumford police, the MDEA and other local agencies continued to investigate drug crimes in Rumford and surrounding areas in 2017.
He said Police Department records show 26 arrests associated with these investigations.
“(The Rumford Police Department) continued working those investigations because we had informants, we had citizens giving us information, and we continued work with MDEA, the Mexico police, the state police and the Sheriff’s Office.”
“So those next arrests were in Mexico, Dixfield and East Dixfield, but they were related to a lot of work our detectives and officers had done,” Carter said. “That’s why they didn’t show up on the list for Rumford arrests because they were over in Mexico and Dixfield.”
Carter said their goal is to put pressure on those drug dealers and “move them back out of state because they’re coming from New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts, and setting up shop with our local addicts and drug people.”
He said the drug business is lucrative. “They’re making a lot of money here on our addicts. When we arrested two or three, that group would just send up two or three more and set up shop somewhere else. We didn’t stop our investigations because it wasn’t happening here. We still have the drug problem.”
Carter said they’re throwing a wide net to try to stop the drug trafficking in the River Valley.
“We’re not just arresting them here,” the chief said. “If we have residents going to Lawrence, Massachusetts, picking up drugs and bringing them back, we’re getting a warrant and Lawrence, Massachusetts, is picking them up and we’re prosecuting them here for that.”
He said their goal is to send the message to out-of-state criminal drug organizations that “while you may be able to prey on our people in Maine and make substantial profit doing so, we will not stop with the worker bees of the organization. We will climb the ladder as far as we can go and hold the principals responsible for their unlawful predatory actions.”
Carter said for future investigations, the department hopes to add a drug-detection dog.
The Rumford Finance Committee voted March 12 to place a line-item question on the June 12 ballot asking citizens if they would support spending $59,000 on a police dog.
“The K-9 is only going to boost the amount of cases and amount of drugs we’re able to get because there’s a whole lot of work happening by patrol,” Carter said. “Having a K-9 readily available, we may be able to have probable cause to search a vehicle and get a load of drugs off the street.”
He believes those opportunities are going to magnify and “we’re going to see a lot more seizures and prosecutions. That’s the hope of having a K-9.”
Carter said his department should be able to sustain the K-9 program through forfeitures.
“The problem I foresee is that forfeitures sometimes sit in limbo for a long time waiting for the prosecution to be completed through the court system,” he said. “Sometimes it takes a year or two years.”
He the K-9 officer would be available if it’s needed in Mexico, Dixfield and Peru.
“Through equitable sharing, if we have a part in that investigation, then we may get a part of those seizures,” Carter said.
“We’re working very hard to fund this outside of public funding, and any private funds or grants we get will offset public funding,” he said.
He said the department would need a vehicle for the K-9 officer.
“We’re looking for a grant through U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development that may fund the vehicle, and other smaller grants to help offset the cost of the K-9 and training” he said. “We’re also reaching out to Walmart for a community grant specifically for a K-9.”
Rumford Police Chief Stacy Carter says arrest data is causing some to underestimate the extent of the drug problem in his town.