BANGOR, Maine — The police department’s Special Enforcement Team has set its sights on curbing bad behavior and illegal activities in 21 city parks.
Sgt. Paul Edwards announced in May that the team planned to beef up its park patrols in response to a rash of complaints.
In addition, keeping an eye on parks in the city’s downtown and waterfront areas was made a priority for the department’s bicycle patrol officers, Lt. Jeff Millard said Monday.
In the latest move aimed at keeping city parks and other play areas safe for children, Bangor’s Police Department and Department of Health and Community Services have obtained funding to make signs for 21 city parks that have been designated as safe zones.
In 2005, state lawmakers enacted a law designed to protect children using Maine’s athletic fields and parks from drug dealers, Edwards noted. The law allows municipalities to designate athletic fields, parks, playgrounds and recreational facilities as “safe zones.”
To be designated a safe zone, an area must be frequented by children and conspicuously marked using wording provided by the state’s commissioner of public safety.
Millard said the signs point out that drinking and drug use are prohibited and that parks are closed from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
According to Edwards and Millard, safe zones are treated similarly to a drug-free school zone in that drug dealing within 1,000 feet of them subjects the dealer to an enhanced penalty, often resulting in felony charges.
According to Millard, some of the problem behaviors and activities that occur in city parks include public drinking and underage drinking; loitering after hours; loud, lewd and disorderly conduct; and drug use and drug dealing.
“We know people are using drugs [in parks] because sometimes we find [hypodermic] needles or people find them and report them to us,” he said.
Some of the city’s trouble spots are Second Street Park, where underage drinking frequently occurs; Pickering Square, where teenagers and young adults often congregate; and Gomez Park, though not in recent months.
Though rare, robberies and assaults also have occurred in city parks, according to articles in the Bangor Daily News archives.
Following are brief recaps of some of the recent crimes that have occurred in or near city parks:
- In November 2008, a woman was punched in the head and robbed of her purse by an unknown man along Court Street, near Coe Park.
- In December 2008, a Bangor man was stabbed in the back by a male suspect in Hamlin mall, a park located between Franklin and Central streets.
- Last July, a middle-age transient woman was robbed of her prescription pills at knifepoint in Gomez Park. Police called the attack “brazen” because it occurred in broad daylight.
- In August of last year, three local men and a teenager were arrested after they brutally beat a man who was trying to recover a purse stolen from a woman near Second Street Park.
- In March, police arrested a Glenburn man at the skate park near the Bangor Auditorium after they found him in possession of brass knuckles.