LEWISTON — The city will look to hire a private security firm to monitor municipal parking garages after police officials say calls for service have increased.

The proposal was supported during a City Council workshop Tuesday on crime, where police officials discussed the public perception that crime has increased. Statistics show it hasn’t, but issues stemming from a larger unhoused population and substance use have led to other challenges, police said.

Police officials said that while overall calls for service are in line with recent years, they have increased at all five municipal parking garages, especially at the Centreville, Oak Street and southern gateway garages. They said it has mostly stemmed from unhoused people using the spaces for shelter.

Deputy Police Chief Adam Higgins said a recent call to the Centreville garage was due to a report of feces being spread on the stairways. There have been similar issues in the Oak Street stairwells.

Chief David St. Pierre said police patrol the garages as much as possible, and respond to calls, but with the department already stretched thin, more monitoring would be difficult.

City Administrator Heather Hunter said hiring a security firm to monitor the garages, focusing mostly on the three garages with the most complaints, is estimated to cost about $100,000 annually. Hunter said the city wants to show the “legacy cardholders” at the parking garages — those who have been using the garages for years — that the garages are secure.


According to elected officials, the workshop Tuesday stemmed from an overall perception in the community that crime has increased, due to high-profile shootings in both Lewiston and Auburn. In recent days, the city of Portland has dealt with a much worse situation.

Lt. Jim Theiss said the overall crime rate so far for 2022, which is based on the most serious crimes, is in line with the last few years and is much lower than it was in years like 2011 and 2012.

During the workshop, elected officials said they’ve been concerned with Lewiston’s image and how it’s often portrayed by news sources and social media.

St. Pierre said that in general, he believes that the pandemic exacerbated homelessness, substance use and mental health issues. The department is still down eight officers, but he said they are in better shape than 18 months ago, when they were down 14.

The city also now has two full-time Project Support You positions, which work alongside officers to respond to mental health calls, connecting people with services.

Police also said they recently began an enforcement effort at Kennedy Park, hoping to deter public substance use. Theiss said anyone now observed openly using substances or alcohol in the park is given a six-month trespass warning, and if violated, further action is taken. In about three weeks, it’s resulted in 12 trespass warnings, two summonses and an arrest.


Several officials said state legislation and district attorneys have made the job harder on police, with much less severe repercussions for criminal offenses. Higgins pointed to the news earlier Tuesday that the man charged with the manslaughter death of Donald Giusti in 2018 was given a ten-year sentence with all but nine months suspended.

“If that’s what the repercussions are, that’s a big part of the problem,” he said.

Councilor Linda Scott pressed police officials to “take the narrative back.”

“It’s perception,” she said. “We need to reassure the public that these are things we’re working on. People want to feel safe in their community.”

Councilor Rick Lachapelle told police officials that the current City Council supports the police department.

“This is not the same council from a few years ago that wanted to defund the police,” he said.

The previous council did not decrease police funding.

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