MECHANIC FALLS – Maine State Police will assist in the investigation of sex-abuse crimes here because the local department doesn’t have the resources to handle large-scale probes on its own.

After a recent sex-abuse case was turned over to state police for follow-up, the district attorney decided to make that a full-time arrangement.

“If you don’t have the training and experience to deal with these kinds of cases, they can be pretty tough,” State Police Lt. Walter Gryzb said.

District Attorney Norman Croteau said Tuesday that the new arrangement is not a reflection of the skills of the Mechanic Falls force.

“It’s really an issue of limited resources,” Croteau said. “When you start getting involved in these kinds of cases, a lot of departments just don’t have the kind of manpower to deal with it.”

When sex crimes occur in Mechanic Falls, state police will be called in as a matter of protocol, Croteau said. The departments will work side by side.

“It gives them the opportunity to work with state police and to gain some of that expertise,” he said . “The goal is to eventually get the biggest bang for your buck with the resources you have.”

The arrangement was worked out between Croteau and Mechanic Falls police Chief Jeff Goss. Goss was not available for comment Tuesday.

Town Manager John Hawley said he was not in on the meeting between Croteau and Goss, but it was his understanding that lack of training was also an issue. With limited funds and officers coming and going, proper training is not always a possibility.

“Like most small-town departments, we have a high turnover of officers,” Hawley said.

By Tuesday afternoon, Hawley had not heard of any problems arising from the arrangement. Police in Mechanic Falls, like other departments, routinely work with state police on a variety of incidents, from car crashes to major felonies.

“We’ve always had a decent relationship with all of our mutual-aid agencies,” Hawley said.

Croteau said local officers would continue to patrol the town as usual. The department has five full-time officers and several part-timers, according to town records. They handle roughly 4,000 complaints per year.

Last year, a 48-year-old Mechanic Falls man was sent to prison for a year after he was convicted of sexually abusing a friend of his stepdaughter. But very few sex cases of that nature come out of Mechanic Falls, Croteau said.

He stressed that the new arrangement is not punitive, as it was in Wilton three years ago.

In 2007, Croteau ordered all of that town’s sex-abuse cases to be handed over to the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department for investigation. That came after a report suggested Wilton police had botched a number of cases due to lack of training and failure to follow department policies.

“That was a completely different situation,” Croteau said.

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