LINCOLN, Maine — Angel Ireland moved to town from Bangor about five years ago to escape nagging crime, but since moving onto Taylor Street, the 35-year-old has seen more crime here than she ever saw in the Queen City.
None of the incidents she has experienced is a severe crime — vehicle break-ins, vandalism, a snowmobile theft thwarted when her husband chased down the thief on another snowmobile — and she readily admitted that she and other neighbors thought so little of the criminal activity that they haven’t reported most of it to police.
But the crimes have been increasingly frequent and irksome enough lately, they said, to move the Irelands to begin forming a community block watch in their neighborhood and to ask the Town Council for help.
“A lot of the problems are centered around the [Main Street] parking lot,” Angel Ireland told councilors during their meeting Monday night, “and we have some really shady houses on Taylor Street. Is there something that you can do to help?”
The Irelands asked the council to consider establishing a curfew or to post “No Loitering” signs in the downtown parking lot, which is about a quarter-mile from Taylor, to expel a handful of loiterers — teens and twentysomethings who hang out in the parking lot — whom they blame for the rise in crime.
The parking lot is a hangout for teenagers, and alcohol consumption, cocaine and marijuana use, and drug dealing regularly occur there, area teenagers said.
Councilors and Police Chief Phil Dawson expressed sympathy, and Dawson said that police have been monitoring the individuals who hang out in the parking lot. Dawson invited the Irelands to visit him at the Public Safety Building to discuss police enforcement efforts.
“Things might not be as bleak as they appear,” he told them.
Town Manager Lisa Goodwin said that investigators have been arresting some of the loiterers for petty crimes, slowly compiling criminal records that will eventually result in prison sentences upon enough convictions.
But they expressed doubt that curfews or “No Loitering” signs would work. Such things, they said, wouldn’t apply to those older than 16 or 18 who loiter in the lots, and closing down the lot to loiterers would simply move the problem elsewhere, not eliminate it.
Police and town officials are also working with Motorbrain, a local communications company, to get surveillance cameras that cover the downtown lot wired up properly. That project, which has taken more than a year, will soon be finished, Goodwin said.
The Irelands said they were alarmed, but not surprised, at the death of a 55-year-old Tennessee truck driver, Brian Isdell, who was found collapsed in the downtown parking lot on Aug. 20 after a violent confrontation he had with two local teens, Justin Pete and Steve Osnoe, just before his collapse.
An autopsy conducted Aug. 21 showed that Isdell died of natural causes brought on by heart disease. The state medical examiner’s ruling precludes homicide charges, but police have said that lesser charges are possible, without specifying what they might be.
The teens — who have strongly denied having any intent to physically harm Isdell — said they promised to help Isdell buy marijuana and that Pete fought with him after they had taken a carton of cigarettes from his truck. They also said they took the trucker’s cell phone.
Dawson said Monday that the police investigation into the incident continues. The Irelands hope that it, and other police efforts, will make their neighborhood safer.
“We are all trying to look after each other’s houses as best we can,” Angel Ireland said.