HOULTON, Maine — A 12-year agreement between the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Department and the Maine State Police over who patrols what area of the county is coming to an end.
Starting Saturday, Jan. 4, Sheriff’s deputies and state troopers will both resume patrolling all areas of Aroostook County, according to Deputy Chief Darrell Crandall.
Previously, Aroostook County was divided into five separate patrol zones. The Sheriff’s Department was responsible for one of those zones, while the Maine State Police patrolled the other four. The state police had a larger coverage area because its police force is larger.
The zones of responsibility rotated on a weekly basis and any phone calls received were re-routed to the appropriate agency.
Crandall said he and Chief James Madore discussed the deployment of resources in all units back in August. An analysis of the Sheriff’s Department’s services, including calls for service and Uniformed Crime Reporting clearance rates was conducted and the decision to change was made at that time.
“We decided that by far the best course of action for us was to go back to deploying our resources throughout all of Aroostook County,” Crandall said.
Troop F of the Maine State Police has one lieutenant, three sergeants and 18 troopers, while the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Department has one chief, one deputy chief, two patrol sergeants and six patrol officers. Troop F is also responsible for the northern portion of Penobscot County. Starting Jan. 4, the patrol groups will be divide in half, with four sheriff’s officers on the road each day.
“Rather than being separated daily by geography, we will be working more collaboratively with the State Police,” Crandall said.
As an example, Crandall said his department’s policy is to deploy two deputies for all serious incidents, including domestic violence complaints. That policy will be amended so that one trooper and one deputy may be deployed, sharing in the coverage.
The county has more than 9,000 square miles of coverage area, with 3,000 miles of public roads and another 5,000 miles of logging roads.
One area that had to be worked out was how 9-1-1 emergency calls would be handled. When 9-1-1 is dialed from any landline telephone, that call goes to the Penobscot Regional Communication Center in Bangor before being sent to the appropriate agency.
Some cellular 9-1-1 calls ring in to the Houlton PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point), which is located at the Troop F barracks.
“We’ll be experimenting for a couple of weeks to see what works best, but ultimately, those (9-1-1) calls will be distributed evenly among the two agencies,” Crandall said.
Another reason for the change, Crandall said, was to afford his deputies the opportunity to complete investigations in a timelier manner. He used the example that under the old agreement, a deputy could be investigating a case in southern Aroostook County, but the following week be expected to patrol in the St. John Valley.
“The old system wasn’t highly efficient,” he said. “The taxpayer is paying for a service, so how do we enhance it? This change will definitely do that.”
Lt. John Cote, commanding officer of Troop F in Houlton, said while it was the Sheriff’s Department who initiated the change, he welcomed it.
“We are looking forward to it,” Cote said. “Their deputies and our troopers will be working alongside each other. It should be a good change.
“In a lot of ways it won’t change what we do,” Cote continued. “The citizens of Aroostook County will not see any less coverage. In fact, they will probably see an increased presence and better response times.”
“On a daily basis, there will be more coverage throughout Aroostook County in those areas that do not have organized police departments,” Crandall added. “It will, without question, increase our ability to prevent a crisis from happening.”