LEWISTON — Lewiston police Sgt. Marc Robitaille will not help you get rid of skulking skunks. But at a noontime event Friday at Pleasant View Acres on Fairmount Street promoting community policing, he said he and other Lewiston cops would be happy to assist with other issues residents had.
“We had a meeting with the property management company (for the apartments) and we agreed to throw a party to meet with residents,” Robitaille said. “This is a better setting for residents to talk about problems.”
One man asked Robitaille if there was anything he could do about a skunk that was getting into his trash at night. The officer chuckled and said, “Nope, sorry.”
About 50 residents, mostly children, blew bubbles, played with balloons and ate pizza in the complex's playground.
“We want to try getting people together and ultimately we are hoping some people in the community will take the lead in organizing a neighborhood group,” Robitaille said. “They're the stakeholders and we want to help them deal with concerns about improving the quality of life and making this a safe place for children.”
Katelin Tabor, compliance manager for Propsys Management Co., which manages the Hillview Apartments complex, said her company sponsored the event, paying for the food and balloons.
“It's a good chance for the tenants to come together. Their opinion matters — this is their home,” she said. “We have a good turnout, with lots of kids. That's where it starts.”
Tabor said domestic disputes are the most frequent problem in the community.
“It's usually conflicts within one family, as opposed to neighbors fighting,” she said.
Carrie McCormick, the property manager for the apartments, said her company wants the residents to feel important and know that they are all members of the community.
Both said the high turnover rate in the affordable housing community contributes to the difficulty in creating a culture of belonging.
Resident Keon Shepard said he's happy to see more police outreach, but many other residents are not.
“A lot of people told me they wouldn't come today, to what they called a 'snitch party,'" he said. “The community needs to stay together. We have a lot of kids and having police around, I don't think it's a bad thing. A lot of us don't have much, but the least we can do is give our kids a safe community.”
Shepard said this summer is already an improvement over last year, when people were frequently drunk and getting into fights.
Robitaille said the outreach was part of a renewed emphasis on community policing launched by Lewiston Police Chief Michael Bussiere. Similar events will be held at other apartment complexes and in downtown Lewiston, he said.