RUMFORD – People can expect to see a heightened police presence in Rumford neighborhoods this year in an effort to continue to curb crime.

New police Chief Stacy Carter said he plans to increase the department’s bicycle patrol, and to begin community policing by getting officers into neighborhoods and talking with people to learn about and resolve problems.

“We want to get each community more involved,” he said.

Comparing statistics from 2005 to 2004, Carter said thefts decreased significantly, but burglaries, rapes and assaults increased.

In 2004, there were 246 reported thefts, which includes four stolen vehicles; 39 reported burglaries, 10 of which were attempted but not successful; seven rapes or gross sexual assaults; and 130 assaults, of which, five were aggravated.

In 2005, there were 195 reported thefts, four of which involved stolen vehicles; 48 reported burglaries, nine of which were unsuccessful; eight rapes; 135 assaults, seven of which were aggravated; and one robbery.

Additionally, Carter said the department is again expected to conduct under the influence saturation patrols and safety-belt patrols once they obtain state and federal grants.

And, thanks to the Legislature and Rep. Randy Hotham, R-Dixfield, Rumford now has eight designated drug-free safe zones.

This means that anyone caught dealing drugs or committing drug-related offenses within 1,000 feet of the zones faces enhanced penalties, because the crimes are elevated to felony status, Carter said.

Currently, signs designating the areas have gone up at the Rumford Community Center, Chisholm School, the three fields at the bottom of Lincoln Avenue, and ballfields at Smith Crossing, Virginia and Rumford Point neighborhoods. The remaining two zones – Hosmer Field and Black Mountain – are to be posted this coming week.

“The Legislature says that any locations frequented by children, such as playgrounds and ballparks, can be designated drug-free safe zones,” Carter added.

In other police news, Carter said reserve officer Lawrence Winson, 26, of Rumford, was hired Friday to full-time status, bringing the department’s full-time staff to 14.

Winson, who began working for Rumford on Aug. 19, 2005, is expected to attend the Maine Criminal Justice Academy in Vassalboro to become a certified officer. Earlier this month, F. David Bean, 58, of Rumford, and James Bernard, 32, of Mexico, were promoted to sergeant, Carter said. Bean has been a Rumford policeman for 21 years; Bernard, five years.