LEWISTON — Wednesday was a day that went to the dogs. Police dogs, that is.
With a dozen of them prowling the downtown Wednesday afternoon, police recovered a variety of drugs and paraphernalia, including bags of crack rock and a syringe with traces of heroin inside.
The police dogs were in town for their regular training Wednesday morning. With a team of local, state and federal police preparing for their weekly effort known as Operation Hot Spot, the two groups decided to hook up for the day.
"We figured, the dogs were here anyway," Lewiston police Lt. Michael McGonagle said. "Instead of having them roam around an old, abandoned building like they usually do, why not let them train out on the street where they could help us out?"
And help they did.
All summer long, police have received complaints from people who find dirty needles, crack pipes and other items strewn around the downtown. With professional tracking dogs along, police were able to find some of the stuff and get it off the street.
On Shawmut Street, they found roughly a gram of heroin inside a discarded syringe.
Around a tenement on Bartlett Street, the dogs led officers to a cache of items that included five crack rocks inside a sandwich bag, 100 rounds of 9mm handgun ammunition and two grams of marijuana.
On Walnut Street, stashed beneath a porch, they found a steak knife that had been used for drug processing.
"These are things that could be found by kids walking through the area," McGonagle said. "We were able to get some of those items out of the public arena."
Operation Hot Spots has been ongoing since late spring. It involves Lewiston police, the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and other agencies.
The operation was launched in response to an early spring spate of downtown crime that involved several reports of gunfire. On Wednesday, thanks to the dog training session, local police were joined by officers from various towns, including Scarborough, Westbrook and Brunswick.
While they were out, police also found and arrested a local man and woman who were wanted on Drug Enforcement Agency warrants charging them with aggravated drug trafficking.
Police also handed out 250 fliers to downtown residents, explaining the ongoing operation and announcing a community meeting scheduled for next week.