LEWISTON — The city’s police chief announced Monday that overtime shifts and coordinated patrols with state police are being added to combat a recent spike in violent crime in the city’s downtown area.

Chief Brian O’Malley said a staff shortage prompted him to add overtime shifts to patrols in areas that have seen increases in violent crime.

State police are expected to boost traffic and drug interdiction efforts within the city limits, according to the chief.

“Given our belief that many of these shootings have been drug related,” O’Malley said Maine drug enforcement agents will also step up their efforts within the city.

Lewiston’s downtown areas have experienced a rash of shootings and reports of gunshots over the past few months.

Most recently, several men were charged in connection with a July 7 shootout in a Bartlett Street apartment building. Shots pierced the apartment of a couple with two young children.


Before that, a man was shot in the leg on June 16 at Bartlett and Pine streets. The same day, there were reports of gunfire on Spring Street.

A selective enforcement team that often works undercover will be patrolling the city to help uniformed patrol officers respond to violent crimes, O’Malley said.

Local officers will be teaming up with agents from federal departments to show a greater presence of law enforcement on city streets, he said.

“Folks in these areas that are being affected by the crime rate will see officers out more in force,” O’Malley said.

In 2014, during a similar crime spike, the city sought federal funding to pay for greater assistance from federal departments in addressing so-called “hot spots,” and was successful in reducing the numbers of violent crimes.

“We find that when we have more visible presence out in the community, our violent crime tends to decrease,” O’Malley said.


His department has stepped up foot patrols in Kennedy Park since a fatal beating on Knox Street that originated in the park, while reinforcing a nightly curfew. And additional patrols are planned, he said.

Bicycle patrols will resume in the downtown area as new recruits come on board and staffing vacancies are filled.

“I understand how the folks are feeling when it is 6:30 p.m. (or) 7 p.m. on a Friday night and they’re hearing gunshots going off,” O’Malley said at a Monday evening press conference.

He said he hoped the increased local, state and federal law enforcement presence “will curtail and cutback and eliminate the gun violence and the violent crime that is occurring here in Lewiston.”

Noting nearby activities in Kennedy Park, where children were playing basketball and swimming and adults were sitting in the shade of trees, he said, “My hope is that we can get more of the community to come out, and let’s put a positive turn on this as opposed to the fear of being in your home and the fear that you can’t step out.”

Although gun violence has largely been aimed at drug dealers, O’Malley said he feared for innocent bystanders who might get caught in the crossfire.

In an effort to address domestic violence issues, often involving substance abuse and mental health disorders, O’Malley’s department is working with groups to plan and implement a program aimed at providing youth mentors in the downtown areas.

“It is unfortunate that we as a city are experiencing these violent crimes,” he said, “but we have been able to make arrests in many of these cases.”


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