LEWISTON — Two-year-old Ava Golder made a beeline for Marc “Bull” Robitaille’s desk drawer in his new office Thursday morning.
She knew the Lewiston police sergeant kept gum there. She held out her hand as he popped a piece from its foil wrapping into her palm.
Golder’s mother, Jessica, was at the Community Resource Team Substation for an open house, where residents wandered in and munched muffins and sipped coffee.
The younger Golder had been to the substation before with her mother, who was recognized Thursday for her involvement as president of the Downtown Community Action Group which helped organize such things as a community cleanup program.
Thanks to a federal grant, the police annex was recently spruced up with new furniture and paint, including a colorful mural and expanded offices. It was all part of a renewed effort to fight crime not only “for” the community but “with” the community, while helping to improve the quality of life for city dwellers, Chief Michael Bussiere said.
The department’s four so-called “community resource officers,” including Robitaille, Tom Murphy, William Rousseau and Craig Johnson, work out of the Bates Street building. They and other municipal and nonprofit organizations offering a range of services share space in the Lewiston Housing Authority-owned building along with residential units.
The officers are expected to work closely with the local groups, attending their meetings and learning their needs, and to conduct foot and bike patrols routinely in the neighborhood, Bussiere said.
They’ll focus on quality-of-life issues, such as littering, loitering, graffiti and public drinking, Bussiere said.
The officers also plan to coordinate efforts with local building owners and their tenants as well as the city’s building inspectors to make sure the apartment buildings are safe.
“It sounds a lot like community policing, doesn’t it?” Bussiere said. Rather than a program or a catchphrase for a one-time initiative, what Bussiere hopes the substation will do is encourage people in the community to use police officers and their resources to improve the community’s quality of life.
This is not something new,” Robitaille said. The department had occupied an apartment on Knox Street at one time. Mayor Larry Gilbert, who also spoke Thursday, was police chief in the 1990s when the concept of community policing was first introduced.
“I bought right into the philosophy,” Gilbert said.