8/9/18, Maine First Media Staff Report,
Lewiston Police are attributing rising gang influence and a market for illicit drugs as causes for recent violence in Maine’s second largest city.
For the past couple year gangs are sending small groups along with systems, infrastructure and product to Lewiston from out of state. Lewiston Police tell Maine First Media, outlaws from notorious gangs like “Bloods,” “Crips,” and “Latin Kings,” are attracted to Lewiston because they can sell drugs for more money with a smaller police presence compared to larger municipalities.
According to Lieutenant David St. Pierre of the Lewiston Police Department, the problem isn’t so much with large gangs running the streets of Lewiston, but more so elusive small-pockets of moving gang members selling drugs.
“It is difficult to put a number on any of this as many times it may be merely suspected that a crime is gang-related,” Lt. St. Pierre said. “Quite often; however, we run across individuals or small pockets of individuals who are identified to us as potential gang members by intelligence perhaps put out by other agencies across the country.”
And because the gang members are selling drugs, drug abuse and addiction are leading to violent crimes.
“Persons perhaps previously addicted to opiate drugs that used to be more regularly prescribed by doctors are now finding those drugs are more difficult to acquire legally,” Lt. St. Pierre said. “Users find the drugs such as heroin to be cheaper and more easily obtained on the streets. Many crimes investigated by police have a nexus to drug addiction; like theft, burglary, robbery, etc. Crimes of violence may occur as the result or non-payment for drugs or for a host of other reasons — such as territorial issues among drug dealers, etc.”
While the criminals are drawn to Lewiston because the city doesn’t have a police force with the budget of say, the NYPD, Lewiston officers are doing everything they can to keep the city safe from gang activity and drug-related violence.
“Our department is very pro-active to the extent it can be due to manpower issues and budgetary constraints,” Lt. St. Pierre said. “We have officers and detectives assigned to the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, DEA, the FBI Safe Streets program in addition to Detectives and Officers assigned to a Selective Enforcement (or Vice) Team. All of the listed, as well as our patrol officers, work well together in bringing criminal charges whenever possible.”
The department is also adding extra officers during the evening — when typically more people are out and about, and call volumes are higher.
Lt. St. Pierre tells Maine First Media cooperation from informants is a major challenge the department faces. Better cooperation could lead to catching more gang members and drug dealers and preventing more crimes from happening.
“It becomes difficult, at times, to gain cooperation from informants due to fear that may be instilled by the dealers or gang members,” Lt. St. Pierre said. “This is true whether they are actual members of a known gang or self-proclaimed as such.”
But catching the criminal is only part of the challenge. From there, it’s in the hands of the courts.
“Our hopes; of course, are that the judiciary system takes over from there and issues harsh penalties when convicted of those crimes,” Lt. St. Pierre said.
And those hopes will soon be put to the test. This past weekend, Lewiston police charged five people, including one known gang member with drug crimes.
- ALBERT D. ROBERTSON, aka “Sadeek,” age 49, of 66 Howe St. Lewiston was arrested and charged with 2 Counts of Aggravated Trafficking in Sch. Drugs (Cocaine base/Crack), 1 Count of Trafficking in Prison Contraband (cocaine base), 1 Count of Unlawful Possession of Scheduled Drugs (cocaine base) and for a pre-existing warrant for Unpaid Fines and Fees. Robertson has a previous conviction for Unlawful Trafficking in Sch Drugs in December of 2003.
- JOHNNY WALKER, aka “Dutch,” age 37, of Rochester, NY and known “Bloods” gang member, was charged with 2 Counts of Aggravated Trafficking in Sch. Drugs (Heroin, Class A), 1 Count of Unlawful Trafficking in Sch. Drugs (Cocaine base, Class B), 1 Count of Illegal Importation of Sch Drugs (Heroin, Class A) and 1 Count of Illegal Importation of Sch. Drugs (Cocaine, Class B). Walker was previously convicted in August of 2006 in New York or Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Sell.
- AUTUMN JADE JOHNSON, age 20, of Rochester, NY was charged with 1 Count of Aggravated Trafficking in Sch. Drugs (Heroin, Class A), 1 Count of Unlawful Trafficking in Sch. Drugs (Heroin, Class B), and 2 Counts of Unlawful Possession of Sch, Drugs (Heroin & Cocaine Base, both Class C).
- MELODY SLOANE, age 27, of Lewiston was charged with 1 Count of Unlawful Possession of Sch. Drugs, (cocaine base, Class D). She was charged but not physically arrested. There was no photograph available for Sloane.
- DASHANE SEAMSTER, age 23, of Greene, Maine was charged with Failure to Submit to Arrest or Detention (Class E) and Criminal Trespass (Class D).
Police seized 21 pre-packaged grams of heroin (210 dosage units) and 23 grams of cocaine or cocaine base and $1,200 in suspected drug sales. The “street value” of the seized drugs is about $9,000.
Bails ranged from $50,000 to $10,000. The investigation is on-going, and additional charges and arrests are possible.
Lt. St. Pierre says officers also see a different type of gang.
“Different from the typical “street gangs” being discussed, there are also various members or suspected members of outlaw motorcycle gangs that may live in Lewiston and surrounding communities,” Lt. St. Pierre said. “Those tend to be more obvious as they display “colors” or identifying clothing or patches.”
Add to that the growing problem of gangs of young Somalis roaming the streets of downtown without supervision.
One man was recently killed following an attack from a large group of Somali youths — there are still no arrests in the case. Maine First Media also reported on a mob of young Somalis attacking park goers at Kennedy Park.
According to Lewiston Mayor Shane Bouchard, the city is working on solutions to prevent more residents from joining or getting involved with the gangs of Lewiston.
Lt. St. Pierre says parenting will play a significant role in keeping Lewiston kids out of gangs and off of drugs.
“In terms of keeping people from joining, I would say education and upbringing or discipline by parents perhaps plays the largest role,” Lt. St. Pierre said.
The recent surge of drugs in Lewiston — similar to what we see across the country — include heroin or a mix of heroin and fentanyl and then there’s always cocaine and crack.
Both Lt. St. Pierre and Mayor Bouchard believe fighting drug abuse — and specifically, the Opioid Epidemic that has ravaged Maine — takes a combination of education, treatment, increased enforcement, counseling, stricter penalties.
Attorney General Jeff Session was recently in Portland, where he announced President Trump’s new initiative Operation Synthetic Opioid Surge (Opp SOS) — aimed at targetting the opioid supply by establishing local task forces in the areas hardest hit by opioid abuse — Maine will be receiving a task force.