LEWISTON — With nearly a full force after years of staff shortages, police are on a mission to target small problems within the city before they turn into big ones.

Police on Friday announced the launch of what they’re calling Neighborhoods First, an initiative aimed at lowering the number of quality of life service calls received by the department. The strategy is a direct response to the increased nuisance calls initiated by local residents and the business community.

“With Neighborhoods First in place, LPD will be able to rapidly respond to highly visible, minor misbehaviors that if not handled as they occur, those overlooked offenses could mushroom into larger issues,” according to a news release. “In the past, staffing shortages have limited proactive police response.”

Lewiston Police Chief David St. Pierre said the department is able to launch the strategy after increasing its workforce after years of shortages. The department, St. Pierre said, is at 95% staffing.

With the added manpower, police said they’ll be able to respond quickly to nuisance calls within the downtown area. And there have been a lot in recent years.

“We have had a 21% increase in nuisance calls since 2020, particularly in our business and downtown district,” St. Pierre said. “That is unacceptable. Our goal is to be proactive and address these issues before a citizen initiates a complaint.”


The new program will bring together officers from a variety of teams, including the Crime Reduction Unit and Community Resource Team. The effort will also involve Project Support You and both patrol and criminal investigation divisions.

“This team will be expanding their focus beyond 911 calls,” according to the release. “They will be performing proactive engagement with offenders who commit violations, whether downtown, the business district or in neighborhoods.”

The department will also work with the courts and outside agencies where necessary.

“We are in lockstep with the community and local businesses to address these issues,” St. Pierre said. “The success of this strategy requires the support of our local district attorney, federal and county law enforcement and community partners.”

Neighborhoods First, police said, will attempt to promote a better sense of well-being in the community by targeting issues that generate complaints every day.

“The strategy will focus on keeping our local businesses and community safe and protected by enforcing wide-ranging issues ranging from disorderly properties, city ordinance violations, loitering, traffic laws to quality of life crimes,” the release said. “The actions of this collaborative approach will range from addressing early risk factors in developing community issues, referral to services and criminal enforcement measures, now in a much more efficient and timely manner.”

In 2022, 3,282 nuisance calls came in to the department, a number St. Pierre described as “intolerable.” The department will use that number as a benchmark as the effort goes forward.

Lewiston Mayor Carl Sheline said the effort should make a noticeable difference in the quality of life for people who live and work in the downtown area.

“I appreciate the Lewiston Police Department’s effort to tackle these issues affecting our local businesses,” he said. “This two-pronged approach of addressing nuisance crimes and getting individuals the help they need will make a difference in our community.”

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