CALAIS, Maine — A gang with ties to a criminal organization in New York City has established a presence in Greater Calais, local police officers said Thursday.
Police are facing an organization that is affiliated with a gang known as the Crips out of New York City, said Officer Matthew Vinson.
Vinson and Sgt. John Preston discussed the gang during a budget workshop held by the City Council on Thursday night. They mentioned gang activity when the council debated possible spending cuts to the Police Department.
“People are putting guns in people’s mouths,” said Vinson, speaking before dozens of residents who attended the meeting.
“Cutting the Police Department right now? It’s dangerous,” he said.
Police have seized heroin and crack cocaine in recent investigations, Preston said.
The gang is active in Greater Calais, including Baileyville, according to Vinson.
Earlier this week, state and Baileyville police made guarded comments about possible gang activity in the region in reference to their investigation into a recent assault on a Princeton man.
Vinson also referred to a Bangor trial in which two men are accused in a triple homicide.
“That’s the same people we’re dealing with here,” he said.
No evidence of gang activity, however, has yet been presented in court documents or during testimony in the trial against Nicholas Sexton, 33, of Warwick, Rhode Island, and Randall “Ricky” Daluz, 36, of Brockton, Massachusetts.
Preston said the situation in Washington County is not about just one individual selling a pill to get money to support a drug habit.
“This is big money,” said Preston.
In his 18-year career in law enforcement, “this is the worst I’ve ever seen it,” Preston said.
Vinson, who has worked in law enforcement for 25 years, echoed Preston’s remark.
If police positions are cut, “It’s going to make a bad situation worse,” said Vinston.
Police are having to be “more reactive than proactive,” said Preston. “You make these cuts now … You don’t need us until you need us … Bad things are going to happen.”
City Manager Diane Barnes asked the officers what the impact would be if three police jobs were cut in the eight-person department. Without directly responding, Preston said that gang members are observing police in order to ascertain their work schedules to identify when fewer officers are on duty.
“We have intel … They know our schedule … They know the slow times,” Preston said.
Baileyville police have had the same experience and adjusted their schedules in order to combat the gang’s influence, indicated Vinson.
“Things are going to get worse” if police positions are cut, said Preston. Officers already are stretched thin, he indicated, particularly at night and in the early morning.
Councilor Alan Dwelley called it a “bad idea” to consider budget cuts to the Police Department at a time when it has its hands full combating drugs.
Barnes recently proposed spending cuts in conjunction with the proposed 2014-15 fiscal year budget under consideration by the City Council. Her recommendations include eliminating a police detective position for one year and a police administrative assistant position for a combined savings of $109,200, and additional cuts also are being considered.
The council took no action on the proposed budget and is expected to continue to debate it in coming weeks.
Baileyville Police Chief Robert Fitzsimmons was prompted to post a warning on the Police Department’s Facebook page earlier this week.
“To the citizens of Baileyville and the surrounding communities, bad people from other areas of our state as well as other states are here,” says the post dated May 4. Law enforcement agencies “are involved and are working around the clock together to combat this.”
The post also urged people to notify authorities of suspicious or unlawful activity.
Also, Maine State Police Lt. Roderick Charette said this week that investigators are looking at a possible gang connection in an assault on a Princeton man in Alexander last month.
Charette and Washington County Sheriff Donnie Smith did not respond Friday to email requests for comment, and a phone message for Maine Drug Enforcement Agency Cmdr. Peter Arno was not immediately returned.