For the past several years the Town of Lubec has contracted with the Washington County Sheriff's Department for additional law enforcement coverage. The most recent contract was approved by voters during the August 2011 annual meeting for the amount of $173,860. That contract expired at the end of June 2012 and has not been renewed. Since that time Lubec has received the same level of coverage as other Washington County towns, from both the sheriff's department and the Maine State Police.
Has the change in coverage made a difference? Not according to nine Water Street merchants who were recently interviewed. If anything, said a few, state police coverage has increased. However, this is based on anecdotal observation and has not been confirmed by the authorities.
Contrary to statements published elsewhere, there has been no "crime wave" in Lubec. According to the merchants there has been a single break‑in on Water Street so far in 2012. Annabell's Pub and also Murphy's Family Restaurant located on County Road were burglarized in July, shortly after the expiration of the contract with the sheriff's department. None of the others reported any kind of break‑in or vandalism, except for Frank's Dockside Restaurant, which was burglarized in 2011, well before the contract terminated.
Several merchants commented on a general increase in late‑evening activity on Water Street, which they feel has grown gradually over the last five years. This "rowdiness," as it was termed by a few, appears to be accompanied by the consumption of alcoholic beverages and includes occasional fights. Concerns were raised about the effect this has on summer visitors who have been largely credited with an increase in commercial activity during recent years.
Jim Heyer of Water Street Tavern and Inn mentions a recent incident involving a patron who refused to leave after becoming unruly. Heyer praised the state police for a speedy response. Both this incident and the break‑in remain under investigation.
Randy Hall, proprietor of Carleton Corey Garage, states that he has not seen any increase in crime despite his exposed location, although he did express some frustration over police response time to accidents, resulting in delays to his towing business. Hall points out that if there will be an increase in thefts it will likely come later in the year, "when the seasonal work ends."
Subsequent to the 2011 annual meeting the Lubec Select Board convened an ad‑hoc committee to investigate the possibility of the town establishing a local police department. This committee met several times during 2011 but failed to produce a comprehensive conclusion, according to Town Administrator John Sutherland. The committee, comprised of individuals with law enforcement experience, was able to develop preliminary figures that showed expected costs greatly exceeding the amount previously paid to the Washington County Sheriff's Department, according to Sutherland.
The decision by Sheriff Donnie Smith to discontinue the contract was discussed in the regularly scheduled May 24 televised select board meeting. Then Chair William Daye described a meeting with Smith where the notice of termination was provided in accordance with the required 60‑day advance warning. According to Daye's comments at that time, Smith had stated that he could not fulfill the contract for next year because of staffing constraints and the difficulty of attracting qualified candidates. The item was not placed on the town warrant and therefore was not discussed at the annual meeting.
Sutherland stresses that individuals with concerns over police coverage or other town matters should contact him, at the town office, or any member of the select board. "Then maybe we can get something done," Sutherland says.