LEWISTON — Local, state and federal police did some heavy-duty spring cleaning downtown Wednesday night when they arrested more than a dozen people for a variety of crimes.

It was part of the ongoing “Operation Hot Spots,” a program made possible through federal grant money that allows multiple agencies to join forces to saturate an area and clean the streets of crime.

Twenty-seven officers from local, state and federal agencies hit the downtown in the first “Operation Hot Spots” of the spring. The goal was to find people with outstanding warrants and/or probation violations, said Lewiston Police Chief Michael Bussiere.

“It was pretty successful,” Bussiere said. “Some of them were people we’ve been looking for for a while. Many of them were arrested on multiple warrants. I just heard of one picked up for six warrants.”

That’s an indication that people are “committing multiple crimes.” It’s important, Bussiere said, to get them off the streets and into the court system to be made accountable.

At times Wednesday night, it seemed like police were everywhere downtown.

Agencies working the operation included the Lewiston Police Department; Maine State Police; the U.S. Marshal’s Office; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; probation and parole agents; the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency; and the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office. That’s not counting the regular patrol.

As of 10 p.m., 15 arrests had been made with more being processed, Lt. Mike McGonagle said. During the operation, police conducted 18 warrant checks, 12 probation checks and 54 sex-offender checks. Also, if they saw someone hanging out on the streets, “we did field interviews,” asking the person who they were and what they were doing.

Even the top brass were out in patrol cars.

Early in the detail, around 5:30 p.m., a man driving on Walnut Street ran a stop sign in front of Lewiston’s chief of police and deputy chief, who were working together.

“One thing led to another,” Deputy Chief James Minkowsky saisd. “The driver did not have a license. And he was on probation. His probation officer was also working. She was part of the detail. He was supposed to be under house arrest. He got arrested.”

The man, who lives in Auburn, was driving his wife’s vehicle. He didn’t have a clue, Minkowsky said, that he was being arrested by the chief of police.

Other arrests included sex offenders who were not in compliance with their registrations, probation and warrant violations, drug crimes and operating after license suspensions.

To find people with warrants or to check on sex offenders, officers broke up into teams and knocked on doors. Often, the individual wasn’t at the first address, but information gathered led police to a second address, Bussiere said.

At times, so many were arrested that the sheriff’s department transported people in a van.

“We want to set the tone early as to why we’re out there,” to ensure that the community is a safe place to live, Bussiere said. “That kids can be outside playing soccer, walking the dog and not be subjected to criminal activity.”

Operation Hot Spots started in Lewiston in 2012 after a series of downtown shootings that were mostly drug-related, “people fighting over territory and they brought a kind of out-of-state mentality” to Maine, Bussiere said. “We could not allow that big-city atmosphere to move into Lewiston.”

Lewiston police increased patrols and teamed with federal and state officers for special sweeps. The operations have been successful, allowing police to cut down on drug trafficking.

In November 2013, Lewiston received a $149,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Bureau of Justice Assistance, enabling the program to continue into 2014 and 2015.

“This is the first one we’ve done this year,” Bussiere said. More unannounced Operation Hot Spots will take place during the spring, summer and fall.

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