Last month, selectmen cut the town’s police force from four full-time officers to three.

DIXFIELD – Apparently, the word is out that Dixfield police are no longer patrolling the town daily between 1:30 and 6 a.m.

At Monday night’s selectmen meeting, Police Chief Richard A. Pickett told the board that between 1:30 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. Monday, at least two vandals wreaked havoc up and down Main and Weld streets.

The culprits removed several manhole covers, leaving dangerous shafts open to unsuspecting pedestrians and drivers, jammed some covers into the shafts, and rolled other covers down hills to lie in the street, Pickett said.

They also went joy riding up and down Weld Street in a golf cart stolen from Irving Forest Products’ mill yard, a site that was also hit the previous weekend by up to three vandals for $1,248 damage.

“These people doing this aren’t dumb,” Pickett said after the meeting. “They know that we’re not here at night anymore.”

Last month, a majority vote by selectmen cut the town’s police force from four full-time officers to three. As a result, police could no longer provide 24-hour patrol coverage in town. Instead, the three officers were put on call should anything happen between 1:30-6 a.m.

Town Manager Nanci Allard and the three selectmen who voted to cut the force said the experimental measure was driven by budgetary concerns, a perceived lack of complaints during the time period and an inability to hire and keep a fourth full-time officer.

But after being struck by vandals for two weekends in a row, Irving mill yard supervisor Kevin Stanley said the measure was a bad idea.

“It’s having a big effect on us and I think the trouble in town is just beginning. It will get worse this summer,” Stanley said Tuesday afternoon. “With police patrolling, they wouldn’t have come in on our property. But they know the cops aren’t out there.”

Between 1:30 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. April 20, at least two vandals broke into the mill yard, busted a gate, shattered two gate house windows “for the second or third time,” and drove an 18-wheeler “around for quite a while,” he said. They also drove some of the yard’s large fork lifts and a large water truck used to keep the dust down, Stanley said.

The vandals also climbed onto the 80-foot-tall overhead log crane and lowered a fire extinguisher with it and rigged the tank inside the crane’s giant wheels, Stanley said. Other fire extinguishers were emptied and an attempt was made to turn on a fuel pump. Thankfully, Stanley said, they failed to get the fuel flowing.

Other misdeeds included driving a tractor over an embankment into a fence that surrounds the perimeter, destroying a gate arm at the No. 3 gate, and trying to bust through the chain-link fence gate that exits onto Third and Mill streets.

“It was big kids just looking for vehicles. They were just looking to raise heck. Little kids wouldn’t know how to start them and get them going,” he added.

Police believe the vandals in both incidents at Irving are between the ages of 18 to 25.

Then, early Monday morning, while Pickett, who had been summoned back to town from his East Dixfield home after working the night shift, was attempting to put the manhole covers back, the vandals stole a maintenance golf cart from Irving.

After trying to ram it through two gates, they got it out of the yard and onto Weld Street, Stanley said.

“They’re brave little buggers. I didn’t think they’d come back quite so quick. But when they take a golf cart and ride it up and down Weld Street, they know the cops aren’t out there,” he added.

And while police have leads they’re following, they’re looking for additional help from the public, especially anyone who may have witnessed the goings-on, Pickett said.

As for Irving, they’ve incurred extra costs, beefing up their security force in hopes of deterring future crimes or at least catching the culprits in the act, Stanley added.

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