LEWISTON — In the spring of 2012, then-Lewiston police Chief Michael Bussiere created a new program called Operation Hot Spots after the city was rattled by a series of gun incidents in and around the downtown. 

This week, police Chief Brian O’Malley began a similar effort and for the same reason. 

All day Thursday, extra police patrols were out in force on downtown streets, paying particular attention to the area near Bartlett and Walnut streets. The teams of officers were made up of local cops as well as agents from the Central Maine Violent Crimes Task Force. 

It’s not Operation Hot Spots, officially. Instead, the recent effort is described, less evocatively, as “directed crime suppression patrols.” 

Whatever you call it, there’s no question about what inspired the effort. Since the start of the week, gunfire has been reported at least twice in the Bartlett Street area, including Wednesday afternoon when a man was shot in daylight on a sidewalk. 

That man, 23-year-old George Simmons, of Auburn, was recovering Thursday at a Lewiston hospital. Police were still searching Thursday night for the men who attacked him in what was believed to have been a dispute over drugs, police said. 

More shots were reported in other parts of Lewiston late Wednesday night, although those have not yet been confirmed — police believe in some instances, neighbors might have been hearing fireworks rather than gunfire. 

With the city shaken by these reports, police began hitting the streets early Thursday afternoon. They moved along loiterers in a problem area along Walnut Street. They stopped and talked to people who were passing in the street. They dumped at least one can of beer and issued a warning to the man who had been drinking it on the sidewalk. 

By 7:30 p.m., no one had been arrested as part of the extra patrols and officers were still out on the streets. The primary aim, they said, was to maintain a presence, talk to residents who wanted to talk and to assure the public that they are taking the shootings seriously. 

“At this point, there’s been nothing major,” said police Lt. David St. Pierre, who was part of the patrol. “We’re speaking to a lot of people in the community and keeping a presence out here.” 

Although the downtown was particularly busy with people out to enjoy the hot weather, it was a relatively quiet night on the police beat. By 9 p.m., no reports of gunfire or other serious issues had been reported in Lewiston.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: