During the past few weeks, much has been said about possible racial bias within police departments across the nation, including our own. Statistics proving and disproving various theories as to why minorities are arrested at a higher rate than Caucasians are easy to come by. The truth is that statistical analysis only tells part of the story.

The city of Auburn has a commitment to the values of justice and fairness, and law enforcement is a vital component to ensure we are maintaining those values. I firmly believe, based on my experience before and during my term as mayor, there is no systemic problem with racial bias at the Auburn Police Department. Yes, isolated problems could — and sadly may — occur in the future, but this is not indicative of a cultural problem within the police force.

Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque

We read daily about crime: drug dealing, child abuse, domestic violence, shoplifting. And as a community, we see and feel the results: broken homes, overdose deaths, homelessness and suicide. But do we ever really talk about why crimes are committed?

Do offenders feel that the potential “reward” of crime outweighs the risk? Do some people believe the only way to overcome or escape the unfairness of life is through criminal activity and that crime is the only way to change their circumstances for the better? Or does a feeling of hopelessness driven by their economic situation cause the disparity that leads to criminal activity?

What is the common factor, that — if eliminated — would have the greatest impact on our crime rate?

In my opinion, one common factor is generational poverty. And sadly, minorities make up a disproportionate percentage of those who are caught in its grasp. This is compounded in situations where adverse, traumatic childhood experiences have happened, which may also be generational in nature.


Could it be that the value of fairness, the cornerstone of our society, isn’t actually fair for all? Perhaps generations of local officials, whether knowingly or not, have created certain regulations, zoning and municipal and school policies that are unfair. And that those inequities have created two classes of residents: the “haves” and the “have nots.” Those who have the opportunity to do better and provide for their families, and those without those same opportunities. As time goes by, it becomes harder and harder to break out of the “have not” cycle.

It is easy to place blame on the police and school resource officers, as they are the highly visible face of enforcement. They also serve as an easy way for officials to deflect from the real problems that they and their predecessors have created.

I have been mayor of Auburn for almost three years and we have seen some impactful changes within our community. Crime has decreased by 12%, incomes and home values have gone up by thousands, while taxes stay flat and some homeowners will pay less in taxes this year. There has been and continues to be, significant economic growth. But that’s not enough, that only really helps those who have the opportunity to do better, and the “have nots” among us continue to struggle.

It’s clear that as elected officials, we need to take the lead and search for, then eliminate inequities within our city. We need to encourage diversity within our committees.

We need to ask the Planning Board if our regulations prevent those who want to do better from doing so.

We need to ask the School Committee if the segregation of immigrant students into homogenous groups is the right path, or should we consider a more robust system of integration.


These questions and more must be asked, but it will take the combined effort of elected and appointed officials, and you, the people who live, work and struggle to help us identify and tear down barriers to success, thereby creating opportunity for all.

The governing bodies of this city must deal with this directly. We need to be bold and ask hard questions and not be afraid of the answers. We need open conversations, recognizing that the process leads to solutions. We need to listen and HEAR the perspectives of all citizens, including those with lived experience with generational poverty and adverse childhood experiences.

We can help solve generational poverty, not in the future, but now. Instead of a “service center,” let’s make Auburn a city of opportunity for all of its residents, regardless of color or economic background.

That’s the Auburn I want to call home.

Jason Levesque is mayor of Auburn.

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