HOULTON, Maine — If the first six months are any indication, a plan to share police coverage between the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Department and the Maine State Police has yielded positive results.
Back in January, the law enforcement unit of the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office underwent a significant transformation. For 12 years, the Sheriff’s Office had a “call sharing agreement” with the state police. 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.
“The Sheriff’s Office opted to go back to covering the entire County every day,” said Deputy Chief Darrell Crandall. “As we were planning this change, we projected a 25-30 percent increase in our calls for service in the first year. Through the first six months that increase is 35 percent. Our dispatchers have logged over 7,000 calls for service so far this year.”
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.
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.
A compelling indicator of how this move has increased the Sheriff’s Department’s efficiency is its clearance rate, as tracked by the FBI, Crandall said.
“In a nutshell, for every ‘index crime’ reported to the FBI, we are also asked to report whether we were able to solve that crime through prosecution of an offender or by other means,” Crandall said. “Index crimes are defined as homicide, rape, robbery, burglary, assault and theft.
“I am proud to report that our clearance rate for the first six months of 2014 is 67 percent, with the most currently reported Maine average being 32 percent,” he continued. “For comparison, our 2013 clearance rate was 37 percent. In addition, our overall arrests have increased by 40 percent over last year at this time. Many of the crimes solved by our deputies are property crimes such as thefts and burglaries. Given that the revenue used to pay for the efforts of our deputies comes from property taxes, this is something that will continue to be one of the highest priorities for us.”
Crandall added he felt the reason his department’s success rate with criminal investigations has improved so dramatically is primarily due to its new resident deputy approach.
“Our deputies are now working in the same communities every day … the same communities they live in,” he said. “They really get to know the people, which increases their ability to effectively deter and solve crime. This approach has also been useful in diffusing situations before they have become crises. Quietly and effectively preventing the worst from happening is a big part of progressive, modern policing. We are consciously making this part of what we focus on each day.”
Thus far, feedback from civic leaders and members of the communities the Sheriff’s Department serves has been overwhelmingly positive. Crandall stated response to the increased visible presence throughout The County, has been tremendous.
“We have no plans to change this approach and only hope to continue improving upon our service to our neighbors,” he said. “These results are only possible because of the dedication of our deputies; plain and simple. We could plan, equip and direct all we want, but if the work force is not motivated to make a difference, nothing positive will happen. Our people – throughout our organization – are our greatest asset.”