Despite rash of recent holdups, L-A is still safe

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Street crime is nearly always hollow and pathetic, minor hoodlums risking major jail time for purse snatchings and convenience store stick-ups that probably net them a day’s worth of narcotics.

But we’ve had a rash of them over the last two weeks, which should concern us all.

A grand jury last week indicted Rodney M. Morant, 40, of Lewiston for a five-hour robbery spree that involved four Lewiston-Auburn convenience stores.

Morant’s one-man crime wave ended when Lewiston Police Lt. Adam Higgins correctly predicted where he would hit next, the Big Apple Store in Lewiston.

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Higgins confronted Morant, who ran but was quickly found hiding in some bushes.

Then, last week, police released sketches and photos from two robberies on Main Street in Lewiston. In the first stick-up, April 30, a man and a woman robbed the 7-Eleven store. Then, the following Monday, a man robbed the pharmacy counter at the Rite-Aid store.

In between, Auburn Police arrested Samuel R. Landry on May 2 for snatching a purse from a woman outside the Hannaford on Spring Street.

We hope the recent flurry of street crime isn’t the beginning of a summer-long trend. Either way, this uptick in robberies should concern police and city officials.

As the Sun Journal reported last Sunday, more Mainers, including women are buying handguns, seeking training and obtaining concealed-weapon permits.

Obviously, people only carry weapons when they are fearful. The real question is whether their fears are justified by the facts. We do not believe they are.

The violent crime rate in Maine is very low and has been steadily so for more than 10 years. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2006 Maine had the lowest violent crime rate in the U.S.

What’s more, in 2008 Lewiston and Auburn had the lowest crime rate among the larger cities in Maine, including Portland, Bangor, South Portland, Westbrook, Augusta and Waterville.

Yet, more people apparently feel they are in danger.

Some of this may have to do with the explosion of cop/court TV shows like Law & Order and CSI Miami, but a surge in local drug-related crimes can only reinforce the impression of rampant crime.

More people carrying guns combined with more people committing petty robberies only increases the odds that one of these incidents will end badly.

Since so many of these crimes prove to be drug-related, one solution might be trying to intervene with treatment programs before users become desperate enough to rob.

Perhaps cards and posters could be developed for drug stores and convenience stores urging people to get help with problems before they reach the end of their rope.

Maybe more preventative intervention could be done in certain neighborhoods to put people at risk of doing drug crimes in touch with help.

Expansion of the neighborhood substation program begun by the Lewiston Police Department is another alternative.

Perhaps most importantly, we need to step up efforts to make sure all Mainers understand that the violent crime rate in Maine is exceedingly low and our streets exceptionally safe.

editorialboard@sunjournal.com

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