PORTLAND — The Police Department is pushing back against the Maine Department of Public Safety for calling the city’s performance “disappointing” in a review of 2010 homicides.
DPS spokesman Stephen McCausland reported the statewide homicide statistics in a Jan. 7 newsletter.
McCausland said there were 24 homicides in 2010, which is in line with the historic average. There were 26 homicides in 2009 and 31 in 2008, he said.
McCausland also said the department was encouraged that only 37 percent of the homicides were related to domestic violence, which is down from more than 50 percent in recent years.
But “a discouraging aspect of the homicides numbers was that six of the deaths took place in Portland and four of those cases remain open,” McCausland said.
Portland Police Chief James Craig, however, took issue, noting the department has made arrests in four of the six homicides.
“Their information is not accurate at all,” Craig said. “Of the six, only two remain unsolved.”
McCausland said last week he had made “a mathematical error,” although no correction was published as of last week. There are only three open homicide investigations, he said, two in Portland and one in Bangor.
But Portland accounted for a quarter of the state’s homicides in 2010, and two-thirds of the unsolved cases – more than any other community. McCausland said Bangor had three homicides, one of which is still open.
“Six (homicides) were high for Portland, or for any other community,” McCausland said. “That was a bad year.”
Statewide, McCausland said, three of the 26 homicides in 2009 remain open, while three of the 31 homicides in 2008 are still open.
According to Craig, one of the two unsolved Portland homicides stemmed from a Jan. 8, 2010, home invasion where 25-year-old Darien Richardson was shot in the leg and thumb by a home intruder. Richardson died in Florida from a blood clot, about two months later.
The other open case was the killing of 22-year-old Taquan Samuels, of New York City. Samuels died after being shot in the chest in an Allen Avenue apartment.
According to information provided by police, there were four homicides in 2009, four in 2008, none in 2007 and three in 2006.
One 2009 homicide remains open: the Dec. 20 killing of Than Yim on Read Street. Two of the 2008 homicides remain open: the Aug. 16 killing of Frank Williams in Kennedy Park and the Sept. 7 killing of James Angelo, a security guard, at Mercy Hospital.
Craig would not discuss the progress of those investigations, but said it is important for members of the public who may have information about the crimes to contact police.
“We always need the community’s help in solving these cases,” Craig said. “Especially as time goes by, because it gets increasingly difficult.”
Three of the city’s 17 homicides since 2006 were related to domestic violence, but none of the six 2010 homicides were related to domestic violence.
Although encouraged by the drop in domestic violence homicides, Craig said he is disturbed by an increase in drug-related crime.
He stressed there is no evidence that Richardson or Samuels were involved in drugs, but said those crimes appear to have a “drug nexus.”
Overall, violent crime dropped by 2 percent and property crime dropped by 3 percent last year, Craig said. But there was an “uptick” in robberies, larceny and residential burglaries, he said.
“Most of the people we arrested involved in those had some kind of drug addiction,” Craig said. “And to a greater degree, cocaine.”
There were also two drive-by shootings last year likely related to drugs, he said.
Craig said the department plans on rolling out a series of proactive initiatives to address the increase in drug crimes. But he declined to provide details ahead of a formal announcement.
McCausland said the relationship between drugs and violent crimes is not unique to Portland.
“The drug numbers are starting to creep into the homicide numbers, either as a direct cause or an overtone,” he said.
Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or firstname.lastname@example.org