PARIS — Despite progress in the past year, drug crime remains one of the top challenges faced by municipal police departments, at least in southern Oxford County, officials said this week.

Representatives from Oxford, Fryeburg and Paris police departments met with Oxford County commissioners and members of the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday at the commissioners office in Paris. 

Commissioners try to hold the meeting annually to touch base and get feedback from municipal police departments. Attendance at this year’s meeting had only three of the seven town departments in attendance. 

At last year’s meeting, chiefs from all seven departments attended and expressed a greater need for investigators to deal with drug crimes, particularly in Oxford Hills. 

In response to the chiefs, the Sheriff’s Office worked out an agreement with the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency in March to transfer Oxford County Cpl. Chancey Libby to a drug investigator role for southern and central parts of the county.

Sheriff Wayne Gallant said Tuesday that Libby has been active in his new role, bringing in more than $12,000 in cash and close to a dozen firearms during seizures.

“He started off well, he’s got some good cases going and he’s continuing to do it,” Gallant said. 

Even with the addition of Libby as a MDEA agent, drug-related crime remains a challenge for his department, Oxford police Chief Jon Tibbetts said. 

Until 2011, former Paris police officer Zane Loper, who now works for Oxford, investigated drug crimes in the two towns, Tibbetts recounted. A resident drug agent also helped cut down on property theft, he said.

“The people who steal are predominantly stealing to buy their drugs, so a drug agent takes care of both those problems,” Tibbetts said. 

Tibbetts said he was now able to utilize Libby’s MDEA resources in Oxford, but his force could still use a devoted narcotics investigator, even if there wasn’t the will to fund it. 

“Probably every town needs a full-time drug agent, but it’s a hard sell,” Tibbetts said. “People just don’t see that, they don’t deal with that problem like we do.” 

Fryeburg police Lt. Michael McAllister agreed that funding was a major issue for his department as well, and it could be facing personnel cuts to stave off tax increases. 

Successfully investigating drug cases was also a challenge for Fryeburg Police Department, he said.

“I’ve been there 26 years, so everybody knows me,” McAllister told the commissioners. “If I park out front of their house in an unmarked car, they can pretty quickly figure out something’s up.”

He said this summer the department made at least seven cocaine arrests, mainly from tourists spending time on the Saco River, an annual increase of “300 percent.” Fryeburg officers were also noting an increase in the use of “molly,” a street name used for not only a synthetic drug usually to the stimulant, hallucinogenic drug Ecstasy, but also powder and crystal forms of Ecstasy.

Tibbetts told commissioners Steve Merrill, Dave Duguay and Caldwell Jackson that molly, as well as heroin, are also making inroads into the Oxford Hills region.

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