The messages used to come in like clockwork. 

“Golly,” the caller or letter writer would say. “You sure picked the right city in which to do your crime reporting.” 

“Sure did, Bucko,” I’d respond, because that’s the way we talked back then. “It’s keen.” 

Those out-of-town folks would be reacting to the latest atrocity to occur in Lewiston — the terrifying home invasion, the drug-fueled shootout, the vicious slashing, horrific beating or fiendish murder. 

Back then, if you used any of these kinds of violent adjectives early in the story, you didn’t even need to finish your sentence, because people would instinctively know that you were talking about something that happened on Bates Street, in Kennedy Park or in the lawless lands down by the Androscoggin River. 

Reporters from bigger news agencies throughout New England were plenty familiar with Lewiston then because if wild stuff was happening in the otherwise pristine state of Maine, it would be happening here. 

“You’re lucky,” a Boston area newspaper reporter once told me. “You get to report that big-city crime without having to actually live in a big city. And if you want out for a while, you just have to drive a few miles in any direction.” 

Yesiree, sport. That was true enough. To escape the ugliness of gritty downtown Lewiston for a spell, all I had to do was head up Route 4 to pastoral Turner; down Route 126 into bucolic Sabattus; or over a meandering course of back roads into the rustic lands of Greene or Leeds, Mechanic Falls or Poland, Buckfield or Livermore. 

Kids playing with puppies in sleepy town parks. Grandmothers putting apple pies out to cool on their windowsills. Butterflies flitting, old men whittling, boys with pants rolled to the knees fishing a spell down at the crick. 

Nothing of great drama ever happened in those little towns. Not back in those halcyon days when criminals knew their place, and that place was in the city. 

These days? Nobody ever writes me to express their awe at the savagery of Lewiston or to congratulate me on my shrewd positioning within it.  These days, those calls and letters look like this: 

“Crazy double murder in Norway. That anywhere near you?” 

They write to ask my proximity to Farmington where there was a drive-by shooting. Or Oxford where there was a tense police standoff. On Monday, I got no fewer than half a dozen notes from people wanting to know if I was getting involved in the hostage situation up the road there in Livermore Falls. 

Nope. Not me, chummy. I’m here in Lewiston enjoying the peace and quiet. 

In my best estimation, the transition began more than a decade ago. Some say it started when drug peddlers moved into the rural areas to manufacture methamphetamine. The trend expanded to include other hot drugs, including OxyContin and now fentanyl. 

Where narcotics go, violence soon follows and there you have it, the exodus of crime from the city into the quiet little towns, and suddenly Gramma doesn’t dare put her pies out on the sill anymore for fear of getting capped by some punk. 

I don’t know how valid an explanation it is, but the anecdotal evidence is pretty clear. Violent crimes aren’t just for the population centers anymore, and if I had half the zeal I once had for crime reporting, I’d be requesting — nay, demanding — a move from Lewiston to one of our bureaus out in farmland, where the action is. 

But naw. I’m content to stay here, picking up the scraps like a bird on the beach and just kind of marveling how different things are these days. 

Why, if the trend keeps progressing at this pace, Lewiston will be the place where people go to escape the madness of surrounding towns and the script will have achieved its 360-degree turn. 

“Thanks for putting me up in your downtown Lewiston apartment, Mary Sue. I just don’t feel safe walking the streets of Canton anymore and Hebron has completely been taken over by the gangs.” 

Me, I’m just adapting. Gonna roll my pants up to the knees and do some fishing in the crick. You know, as soon as I figure out what in tarnation that is. 

Is it like a pond or something? 

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