BANGOR, Maine — In early December, a disheveled man with his pants halfway down wandered into Bella Hair Studio, a Main Street salon, wanting a haircut.
When he didn’t get his way because he didn’t have an appointment, the man became increasing agitated and belligerent, ultimately threatening two employees.
Police believe the man, who was arrested on a warrant, was under the influence of bath salts, suffering from a mental health problem or some combination of the two.
Elsewhere downtown, another man believed to be high on bath salts recently frightened the owners and staff at The Fiddlehead Restaurant on Hammond Street to the point that they closed the bar there three hours early because of safety concerns.
Those are just a few of the incidents — and some of the milder ones at that — that downtown business owners, employees and residents say have been making them feel unsafe since the synthetic hallucinogen hit Bangor more than a year ago.
Last month’s episode at the hair salon prompted owner Bob Gilgan to organize a forum with the help of Bangor police, who were among the first in the country to become experts in dealing with people under the influence of the synthetic hallucinogen.
Business owners worry that perceptions that downtown Bangor has become less safe because of bath salts may be driving potential customers away.
During the roughly hour-long session Wednesday for about 25 people, Bangor police Sgt. Paul Edwards and Officer Jason McAmbly said that the number of bath salts-related incidents has dropped sharply since state and federal authorities cracked down on the drug.
The officers offered some dos and don’ts for dealing with people under the influence of bath salts or other drugs or who are suffering from mental health crises.
The idea, they said, is to attempt to de-escalate situations so they don’t get further out of control and to call 911. People who are delusional and agitated should be treated with caution, using a soft, calm, clear voice, said Edwards, who is an instructor for crisis intervention teams in the area.
Business owners and employees said better lighting and beefed up police or security presence could help, especially at Pickering Square, where the city bus transfer area is located and as such attracts transients and other troubled types.
Bangor City Councilor James Gallant, who attended the session along with Councilor Charles Longo and state Rep. Doug Damon, R-Bangor, said he would bring the safety concerns to the full council.
Gallant encouraged merchants, employees and residents of the neighborhood to come to the city with any other worries and ideas for improvements.