Bartlett Street couple worried about recent crime, wants busing

Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

With a rash of violent crime to hit downtown Lewiston recently, John and Pamela Bannon have become concerned about their 17-year-old daughter's safety as she walks to school each morning. Dorothy Bannon is a senior at Lewiston High School and walks to school each morning. "It's really scary when I send my child out the door each morning," said Pamela. The Bannon family would like to see a grassroots effort to explore ways to stop crime affecting their city. "We are not the only parents concerned with their children's safety," said John. "We hope to get the community involved in taking pride in their community."

LEWISTON — High school student Dorothy Bannon, 17, is nervous about walking to school because of recent neighborhood violence.

So are her parents, John and Pamela Bannon. The Bannons have asked the Lewiston School Department to allow their daughter and neighborhood students to ride the bus to school. School policy says she lives too close.

The Bannons live on Bartlett Street, an area that has had more than its share of violence in recent weeks.

On Sept. 7, three men were arrested on charges in connection with invading a nearby Pierce Street apartment. They were after marijuana, police said. The victim said one put a shotgun to his face and threatened to shoot him. Two of the men arrested, Kevin Stichel, 22, and Derrick McDuffy, 21, live on Bartlett Street. The third, Ricardo Hairston, 19, lives on Lisbon Street.

On Sept. 24, 19-year-old Andrew Jackson of Lewiston was found acting strange on Bartlett Street. He was restrained and rushed to Central Maine Medical Center where he died shortly afterward. Hallucinogenic mushrooms appear to have caused his death, police said, as they warned the community about street drugs.

On Sept. 26, a man was stabbed in an argument on Walnut Street, one street over from Bartlett. The man, Randy Doggett, 20, suffered non-life threatening injuries. The men knew each other and got into an argument.

“Our biggest fear is the violence going on in area, not just Bartlett Street, but all the tree streets,” Pamela said. When looking at the www.raidsonline.com, an online report of police activity, “there's a lot of stuff happening during the daytime," Pamela said. "We're trying to get them on the school bus that goes down Bartlett Street.”

School officials are right when they say the recent violence has been targeted toward certain people, John Bannon said. “But bystanders can get caught up in it. I'm not only concerned about my child. There's quite a few children on the street. Younger kids who see something tend to migrate toward it."

The Bannons said they can't afford to move. They have a good landlord and good tenants in their building. They can't give their daughter a ride to school. He used the family car to go to work hours before school starts. She works at home.

Transportation Director Butch Pratt said walking distances are set by the Lewiston School Committee. Students who live less than a mile cannot ride the bus.

There are exceptions, he said, areas where traffic makes it unsafe to walk. For instance, Lewiston Middle School students who would have to cross a busy Russell Street are bused.

There are buses that drive on Bartlett Street several times a day, but they are full, Pratt said. Adding more students could mean more buses, which would increase costs.

Lewiston Superintendent Bill Webster said while school policy does not allow students who live less than a mile to be bused, “a parent always has an opportunity to file an appeal with me,” he said. “We do view bus stop requests from parents.”

The recent violence did receive wide news coverage, Webster said, “but Lewiston continues to be one of Maine's safest cities.”

Pratt, a former Lewiston police officer, said crime in the area is not new. The neighborhood is poor and houses a lot of people. “Bates, Bartlett and Walnut are always the focus of attention by the police. They probably always will be.”

Police patrol the area regularly. Most people obey the law. But Lewiston is a big city; some are involved in crime, Pratt said. “They are not random acts of violence.”

He offered recommendations for anyone nervous about walking. Don't walk alone. Don't go through backyards and alleyways. Stay on public sidewalks and remain visible.

“And pay attention to what's going on,” Pratt said. “If something doesn't look comfortable, go the other way.”

bwashuk@sunjournal.com

Improving area up to community, says father

LEWISTON — From his third-floor Bartlett Street apartment, John Bannon said getting neighborhood students bused to school is a short-term answer to area violence.

The longer-term answer, he said, is everyone — tenants, landlords, city officials and police — working together to make the Bartlett-Bates-Walnut-streets area a better place to live.

He has noticed that when a police car is driving by with sirens blaring, neighborhood “people don't turn their heads, they're so used to it. That's a bad sign," he said.

Despite poverty and a bad economy, the area could improve if more took an interest, he said. “The community needs to take pride in their surroundings.” He's confident there are some who agree with him. “We need to try and pull them together. Change needs to come from the community.”

Shanna Rogers of the Neighborhood Housing League lived in the area last year. “There is definitely crime. I did see prostitution. I never felt scared."

Rogers agrees the area could be improved by more action from the city, tenants who are responsible and advocate for themselves, and landlords who more carefully place tenants and do background checks.

Another solution is more owner-occupied buildings, she said. “There's a proven rate with that.”

Persons interested in contacting John Bannon can reach him at johnvbannon@gmail.com, or  207-344-7921.

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Comments

Roger Moulton's picture

To Mr. Bannon

You are the classic example of what is wrong with this country and state. Why should everyone in the city or around you take care of the problem and clean up the neighborhood? Isn't it easier for you to move rather than for all the riff raff around you to be forced out? Where do you propose we send all these people? To another neighborhood that is crime free where people work hard to live there? You want everyone to clean the neighborhood up for you so you don't have to do what it takes to move. Get a little ambition, take some pride in your life and move if it's that bad. Otherwise don't cry to us. You didn't reply to my comment of I bet your daughter walks to her friends house and to the store. Should we send her a taxi everytime she leaves your home? Get a life.

Roger Moulton's picture

Don't get your panties in a bunch.

I'm not putting people down for living there I just don't want to hear them cry about the place that they knew wasn't beverly hills when they moved in. Not saying they are bad people I'm just not giving them any sympathy. LIFE IS WHAT YOU MAKE IT.

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

Where is the community

I don't have an opinion of the busing issue one way or the other because I feel that is a band-aid approach to a serious problem. Telling the people who live there to move is kind of blaming the victims for their plight. I have lived in this community all of my life and have spoken fondly and proudly of it. To hear the people in this forum talk about a part of the city rife with crime and blight and assuming that is OK and we should just ignore it sounds crazy to me. Where are our community leaders? If we have such a cesspool why are they not cleaning it up. It has been done before with enhanced police services, community organized groups which bring together those people who live there who are victims not part of the blight, slum demolition and organized youth groups. We need to fight this not just accept it. No matter where you live. If it is in Lewiston this reflects on you.

David  Cote's picture

Another good point

Claire, your second sentence in your post raises a good question...Why do people living in this area, trying to do the right things be chastised by other people as to where they live? It's almost as if the naysayers are blaming this family for their choice of residency. Why shouldn't these people feel they deserve the same safety in their neighborhood as others claim they have in different parts of town. And Robin, why don't you let everyone in on your little secret about how one can move to a different and better neighborhood with no money, alledgedly. It's disappointing how some people stereotype individuals out to be something they are not simply by noting the neighborhood they live in. Disappointing and shameful.

Denisa Laflamme's picture

choices to make

I understand that there are families with limited income and they feel that they do not have options about where they live. I am a single mother with 1 income coming into my home (no its not TANF, I have a fulltime job) and I made the choice/decision to live in an area where I would feel safe for myself and my child. Yes I pay a bit more for rent and have a nicer location and apartment but you need to decide whats important. If you don't like where you live and you don't feel safe then do something about it.

Denisa Laflamme's picture

If only

In a perfect world Pamela that would be great but honestly can you get enough people in the neighborhood to do that who arent scared of the crime and the ones committing it? I think it would be great if that could happen then that would open up alot of opportunities for folks for housing that could be affordable. I hope that there is a solution to this problem and makes things better for everyone....I do remember a time when living on Knox street didn't produce a weird look or a negative comment, when neighbors looked out for each other and everyone's kids played together and people helped each other out but those days have been gone for many many years unfortunately. It would be nice to see those days again though....

Sandra Coulombe's picture

I do commend these parents

I do commend these parents for being concerned about the safety of their daughter. However as many have pointed out crime is hardly a new thing for Bartlet St.. I would be more concerned about all the grandfatherly types cruising the area looking for hookers if I had a teenage daughter in that area.
Thankfully I learned quickly upon moving to Lewiston 13yrs ago that Bartlett St is to be avoided. I was looking for an apt when I first arrived here and money was tight. What I had, had to last until I had a job which I was planning for making what I had last at least 3 months so while I really liked the place I first looked at on Pleasant St. the lower rent on a place listed for Bartlett St drew me to it. I was standing on the sidewalk infront of the building waiting for the landlord to arrive to show me the place when a seeming nice grandfatherly type man in a nice car pulled up. At first I assumed it was the landlord, until he rolled down the window and propositioned me! I couldn't help but laugh all the way back to the place on Pleasant St which I immediately took deciding I could do without a few things to make what funds I had stretch in the nicer area.
I was laughing as I was dressed in jeans, a t'shirt, and a flannel shirt over that as the morning air was chilly to me and I was almost 40yrs old at the time! The thought of a 40yr old grandma in jeans and a flannel being mistaken for a hooker still makes me laugh.
I still avoid even driving down Bartlett St.

David  Cote's picture

Wait a minute...

First off, let's give John and Pamela Bannon a lot of credit for their concern and well being for their daughter, and for speaking up to the public about their concerns. Second, swinging a rent payment along with paying bills and raising kids in this economy is no small feat on its own. Factor in saving enough cash for a deposit on a new apartment, which is usually one month's rent at least, and the prospect of making a change in residency can be quite a challenge. I get dismayed by people on the outside judging other's circumstances. Instead of judging why don't you offer suggestions to help? Sometimes people in the Bannon's position feel there is no hope because we criticize their decisions when we have no right to. The end result is a sense of desolation and hopelessness. It doesn't have to be that way at all. Make some phone calls. Check out the Maine housing website and don't let gloom and doom navigate you to a path you need not have to choose. Don't be afraid to think outside the box.

David  Cote's picture

Sticking up for my hometown and for those who call it home

You know, Pamela, I grew up on the streets of Lewiston back in the seventies. Good times back then. We had our own group that didn't do much to get in trouble besides ringing doorbells and running or climbing the fence to get into the pool in Kennedy park at night. The residents were folks who worked the mills, as well as the older residents of French-Canadian heritage. It was a working class neighborhood and it was a time I treasure to this day. No reason why it can't be that way again. I've been following the stories of how some people want to turn the Bates Mill #5 into a casino. I'd rather see the city, and a few business leaders with a few ounces of vision turn that building, and area into a huge neighborhood market center where people from all walks of life and cultures can converse, do business and establish themselves as leaders of their community. The mindsets of people that have cast aside and thrown away their pride of their town needs to change before positive results can be achieved. This town doesn't need a casino. But it does need to eliminate the riff-raff that's escalated within the city limits. Community leaders need to instill that sense of pride back into people that have become pessimistic of future growth, and a sense of hope for those looking for leadership and clarity. Pessimists will scoff at all I'm saying, not because they believe it's a silly notion, but because to them it's too damn hard to imagine things can change for the better. It is a challenge and it would be tough to accomplish, but we need to look hard and long at our values, our sense of pride and our heritage and have the unyielding understanding that all the effort needed to accomplish this transformation would be worth it a thousand fold. No matter what, Lewiston is my hometown and I am, and will always be proud to say that.

Roger Moulton's picture

So Move

I don't want to hear I can't afford to move. I'm sure there is an apartment in a safer neighborhood that has the same rent or less. I'm not going to move to the bronx and then whine about the violence. Get a grip Mr Bannon. Also I don't think the time the violence is occuring is when kids are going to or from school. At this time all the violent people are passed out. And also you could have your wife walk your daughter to school. Your daughter is 17 in a year she is an adult and will need to defend herself from these people in a year or less. I could see if your daughter was 7 but she's 17. And don't tell me you didn't know Bartlett St. was a bad neighborhood before you moved there.

 's picture

can't afford to move

Before you start judging someone because they can't afford to move, be sure you have the facts. I too live in lewiston on horton st. Im in the middle of all that too. When moving you need first and last months, reconnect fee for cable and elec, even phone. Plus you may have to wait for a place to become available. I am a single mother and I can't afford to move. I can barely afford the rent where I am now. As for "there is probably rent in other places for the same amount or less," I'd like to know where. My rent is 450 for a 2 bedroom and that's because my landlord is a friend of the family's. The crimes are happening at 10:30 am, 1 am, 1pm whatever time it is it doesn't matter. Why don't you help them move instead of complaining about them complaining about the crime.
So remember before you judge someone, take a walk in their shoes, then tell us what you think after.

Roger Moulton's picture

It doesn't cost anymore to move

If you already live in an apartment then you should have your security deposit returned to you if you kept your house in order. Most cable companies won't charge you a reconnect fee and if they do you can quickly get them to wave it by telling them you will go to dish. Even still your daughters safety should be more of a concern than cable. Getting buses to pick your daughter up doesn't change your neighborhood and I'll bet you anything their daughter walks to her friends house or the store in the same neighborhood. Also as I said her mother works from home so she can get off her lazy bum and walk her daughter to school if it concerns her that much. Also they both could probably work on getting jobs that pay more. All the temp agencies around here have jobs listed that will pay enough so you can live somewhere other than the lewiston ghetto. And those jobs are all temp to hire. I don't have any education past high school and my rent is $800 dollars a month. Even if they truly can't afford a move right now I'm sure when income tax time rolls around they can use that money towards moving but they will probably just buy a new TV or couch or something and continue to whine about the neighborhood they live in. Life is what you make of it. And if you are a single mom that has a $450 rent you can probably qualify for some state aid. If you don't qualify then you have enough money to move. My mom was a single mom of 3 and we never lived on horton st.

 's picture

horton st

For your information, my dad and his dad lived on horton street most of their lives. 130 horton to be exact. They new all the neighbors and all would get together and have bbq's and play horseshoes. If a neighbors child had to get off the bus and their parents weren't home, they could go to the neighbors. My mom and dad owned Luiggi's that my grandfather (my mom's side) started in 1953. It's not the area that's bad, it's the bad people in the area. There is crime everywhere. Getting together and trying to do something to stop it instead of just ignoring it and hoping it will go away is not the answer. You're right about one thing, I could move... But I just moved here due to circumstances beyond my control. My mom passed and my dad suffered a stroke, so he's now living with my brother because I was living with him and couldn't afford the house and the bills at the time so he rented out his house to help with the costs. There are many people here that are doing thier best to make a better life, so why tell them to just move? Crime is everywhere and is moving no matter what. There are people in the country getting killed, or raped and no one knows about for a while. There are also many factors to consider. I was living in the country, but was only working part time and wasn't able to pay any bills. Couldn't afford the gas, now i have a better job, live closer, don't have the fuel bill. Anyway, you don't know me or my situation, Just because you and your mom never lived on horton st doesn't mean squat. The fact that she raised 3 kids by herself says a lot, but I bet she had a good job and lived close. Even if she didn't i give her a high five for raising kids alone. So my point is until you live in my shoes or the bannons, or anyone else that lives in this area, stop judging us. I grew up in poland, and harpswell where there isn't as many people in one area. I've had the money and the job and a taste of the good life. life is hard. I've gotten kicked and shoved, and Ive climbed out of the gutter many times. I still and climbing out. I'm not on welfare, Yes I do get some food stamps, but I don't get child support like I should im making it, slowly but my rent is current, even though I have to pay it late sometimes, I have a very understanding landlord. Anyway, get off your high horse and stop sticking your nose down to people just because of where they live. WE are not the trouble. grantes some of the ones here could be, but do you think the ones causing the trouble would waste their time to care what anyone else said on here?

David  Cote's picture

What are you talking about???

Roger, who are you to dictate how someone should spend their money? How do you know what this family's needs are? And how condescending of you to even think you have a right to dress this family down for anything. Telling someone who works from home to "get off their lazy bum"??? Your whole post is mean spirited and insulting, especially your last sentence ; "My mom was a single mom of 3 and we never lived on Horton St." So are you saying everyone living on Horton St. is a malcontent? That living on that street causes a person's social status to be null and void? That decent people living in that neighborhood are undeserving of the same protections and services residents on the "right side of town" enjoy and take for granted? Don't judge a person, period. You have no clue what their total situation is like. Don't humor the rest of us to believe you have the answers because clearly you don't.

 's picture

Street

Bartlett Street is one of the worse streets in Lewiston...

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