Portland's Back Cove residents get advice for quelling crime wave

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PORTLAND — Lock your doors, remove valuables from cars – and lock those, too – and don’t leave items unattended outside.

That was the advice for about 60 residents of the Back Cove neighborhood who gathered at Cheverus High School Aug. 26 to hear from City Councilor Cheryl Leeman and police Sgt. Bob Doherty about an increase in car and home burglaries this summer.

“It seems higher to me, and in a very concentrated area,” said Leeman, who represents the District 4 neighborhood. Doherty said that although he did not have statistics to support an increase, he thought crime was increasing, too.

“Every summer, with the warm weather, we see more (burglaries),” Doherty said. “These people are opportunists.”

The people Doherty referred to are burglars targeting neighborhoods off the peninsula, where residents are more apt not to lock up at night, to leave bicycles outside of sheds or garages, or to leave their iPods in unlocked cars.

The burglars are commonly younger men, he said, and are often fueled by drug addiction.

A simple way to deter the criminals, Doherty said, is to secure homes and vehicles and not leave valuables lying in plain sight.

“If the car is locked, it’s a felony. If the car is unlocked, it’s a misdemeanor,” Doherty noted.

Back Cove residents this summer have come together to work on creating a crime watch, similiar to an effort in North Deering.

Last week, Leeman showed off a paper copy of the crime watch signs that have been posted on both ends of Ocean Avenue and on Clifton Street.

Back Cove residents Jeff and Joan Barkin created a crime watch computer list-serve for the neighborhood. Residents can sign up and receive e-mails warning them of suspicious people or activity, and list members can also post warnings for distribution to other members.

Jeff Barkin said he and his wife have installed extra security lighting on their property, along with remembering to lock up.

“Someone took my wife’s gardening clogs off of the front porch,” he said, almost in disbelief.

“It allows us to really look out for our properties,” Barkin said of the list-serve. He said at the meeting that 74 people had joined so far. Others interested in signing up should e-mail Barkin at jsbarkin@aol.com.

Doherty also reminded residents to notify police whenever they witness suspicious activity, so it can be documented and the officer on patrol can be notified. He said the non-emergency number for the Police Department is 874-8575.

“You can always call 911 if you see someone doing something that is suspicious,” Doherty said.

The officer said police have had good luck catching crooks this summer: several people were arrested earlier this summer for going into homes and stealing items when residents were in the houses.

Officer Andjelko Napijalo, the senior lead officer for Sector 6, which includes Back Cove, Deering and North Deering, has been working with neighborhood organizations to set up crime watches.

“This is now considered a ‘hot spot’ by police,” Leeman told the Back Cove residents.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net