LINCOLN, Maine — Police announced plans Thursday to start a citizens police academy to help residents form block watches and community patrols to prevent crime.
Coming partly in response to at least a dozen burglaries reported since June 1 and a community meeting held last week that drew about 150 residents, Police Chief Scott Minckler said his plan would take about six months to implement, carry little if any cost, and help make Lincoln safer.
Minckler hasn’t yet begun drafting his program, but he envisions residents attending a six- to nine-week course one or two nights a week that would provide a primer on basic police work, he said.
“It would teach people to keep their eyes out for the specific things that we [police] look for,” Minckler said.
Minckler’s proposal seems sound, Town Manager Lisa Goodwin said Thursday.
“It’s something that we have discussed in the past [prior to Minckler’s tenure] but never implemented,” Goodwin said. “Chief Minckler had experience with this [when he worked] with another department and he brings that with him to Lincoln.”
The former Massachusetts police officer helped run an academy as an assistant director several years ago. Much of what he plans for Lincoln will be based on that experience, Minckler said.
Such courses typically include segments on crime prevention and basic evidence identification and preservation. They include home security improvement and anti-burglary and anti-fraud training; training in illegal-drug recognition and use prevention; basic self-defense; basic civil and criminal law; and segments illustrating police procedures and constraints placed upon officers by law and training.
Police involvement with criminal and civil court procedures also could be discussed. Sometimes academies include basic CPR and fire prevention training. Lincoln police and possibly officers from other agencies would teach segments on their own specialties, Minckler said.
If Minckler’s academy were successful, it would be one of the few operating in Penobscot County, if not the state, Goodwin said. She said that as far as she knew, only Auburn had an operational academy.
Auburn Police Chief Phil Crowell Jr. did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
A Google search revealed that the towns of Cumberland, Lisbon, Old Town, Portland, Rumford and Saco have or have had citizens police academies.
Minckler and Goodwin said they hoped that the people who attended a community forum Minckler hosted on July 22 would take the class. He called the forum to discuss the burglaries and what police were doing to combat them.
Though several people had complaints, the reception he received was generally good, Goodwin said.
“I was impressed with the turnout,” Minckler said. “I thought there was a great deal of community support for this.”
“People were genuinely concerned with the illegal activity that has been taken place. They want to safeguard themselves and help where they can. We need that from all of our citizens,” Goodwin said.
At least 12 business, residential and vehicle burglaries have occurred in town since the beginning of June, police have said. Mike’s Auto Repair on River Road and Ramsay Welding & Machine Inc. on Enfield Road are among four businesses and homes burglars hit from July 1 to 3, Minckler has said.
The July burglaries join a half-dozen break-ins or attempted break-ins, in which more than $2,000 worth of items were stolen in early June.
The Ballard Hill Community Center on Pleasant Street, Lincoln Trading & Pawn at 29 West Broadway, several vehicles parked downtown and an Evergreen Drive home were burglarized or targeted last month, police have said.
Nintendo Wii video game consoles and games, loose change, small appliances and some prescription drugs were stolen. Police have located and returned a Nintendo Wii console and several other stolen items to the town’s recreation department.
Most of the burglaries appear to be quick-hit break-ins in which the thief or thieves are looking for items that can produce cash quickly, such as jewelry or small appliances. Loose change also has been stolen, police have said.
In most cases, items were easily taken and doors and windows were unlocked or forced open.
The burglary cases have produced one arrest. Brandon Tolman, 23, of Lincoln was charged on July 23 with receiving stolen property — the Wii machinery — in connection with the Ballard Hill burglary on June 9. That case is pending.