Unreported Tremont burglary shines light on need for consolidation of island police

TREMONT, Nov. 4, 2020 – The weekly police blotter does not weigh the severity of each incident. A burglary might be considered no more serious than a sighting of  someone loitering. That’s why it’s called a blotter. Everything on it is deemed prosaic and monochromatic.

Two house break-ins over two days received scant attention in late October in this the most southeasterly and most rural of the four towns comprising MDI. Only one was even mentioned in the local paper.

QSJ made numerous calls to the Hancock County Sheriff’s department, which provides police services for small towns such as Tremont, to ask about the burglaries. A deputy, referred the call to Lt. Tim Cote who sent the following terse “press release”:

“Incident Report # :20-05051
Synopsis:  On 10/25/2020 a residential burglary was reported in Tremont.  This
investigation is ongoing.
Reporting Officer: Deputy Luke R. Gross

Incident Report # : 20-05021
Synopsis: On 10/23/20 at approximately 1715 hours the Sheriff’s Office received a report of a burglary at a Tremont residence. The case is still under investigation.
Reporting Officer : Deputy Zach Allen. This is all that can be released at this time as it is a very active investigation”
QSJ had better luck with the call desk and was told the burglaries occurred in Seal Cove near Hodgdon’s Seafood and in Bernard near AC Parson’s Landscaping. QSJ made the call in response to a reader’s desire for more information. An officer surmised it was a single perpetrator and that drugs were the motivation.
At first, Lt. Cote said I’d have to drive to Ellsworth to view the press release “because that’s where it is.” He then acceded to emailing the document, such as it was.
I’ll leave it to the resident of Tremont to decide their safety priorities and reaction to such pedestrian enforcement and lackluster reporting. Last October residents voted 2-1 to renew its contract with the county sheriff’s department and reject a competing proposal from Southwest Harbor which would have raised cost of police services by 50 percent. But there were complaints about the status quo, particularly the response time.
Your neighbor may be especially pecuniary but if your house has been broken into and you’ve called the cops, you don’t expect them to take two and a half hours to respond.
But things have changed since. With the recent death of Chief Alan Brown in SWH, island towns have re-opened Brown’s longstanding idea to consolidate police services. SWH selectmen voted 3-2 to pursue discussion. Tremont town manager Chris Saunders said he is open to such talks. Tremont’s current contract with the sheriff’s department runs through December 2023 but has a 30-day out clause.
The issue of police services is much more than streamlining cost. MDI has multiple islandwide agencies and services, but they are helter skelter and uneven in execution. By far the most successful of these is in education, or specifically, Mount Desert Island High School, which was the consolidation in 1968 of Bar Harbor, Pemetic and Mount Desert high schools. After two decades of squabbles and failed votes, the idea finally took hold. Since then, the high school consistently ranks among the best in Maine, and offers athletics, arts, music and cultural programs of high distinction. Moreover, as a mid-sized high school next to Acadia National Park and world renowned Jackson Labs on the island of Mount Desert, the school is able to attract exceptional educators who set high expectations for the student body. MDIHS is the only school in Maine which is 100 percent solar reliant for energy, sparked by a student initiative.
Can a similar approach work for police?
One of the professional hazards of police work is boredom. How many traffic violations and parking tickets can one person mete out before becoming completely jaded by the tedium.
Can an islandwide police job be more challenging and offer better candidates?

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