West End community police station returning to Danforth St. in Portland

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PORTLAND — The West End community policing station will return to its former Danforth Street address later this month.

The station is being moved to 251 Danforth St., where it was for 10 years before funding was cut two years ago to save the city nearly $10,000 annually. 

City Hall spokeswoman Nicole Clegg said the city will sign a five-year lease and pay $900 a month for the space, but will have the option to terminate the agreement with 30 days notice. 

The station recently has been housed at Harbor Terrace, a group housing complex at 284 Danforth St. operated by the Portland Housing Authority. In recent months, however, West End residents have been increasingly critical about the Harbor Terrace location, which is provided to the city for free but is difficult to access. 

The West End Neighborhood Association petitioned city and school officials to move the station to a more visible spot. The West End Community Action Network offered $10,000 to pay the rent for a new location through June 30, 2010, an offer the city has accepted.

“The Police Department will be responsible for funding in the next fiscal budget,” Clegg said.

WENA President Rosanne Graef complimented city officials for addressing the neighborhood’s concerns. However, she said WENA still believes the proper location for the policing center is in the Reiche Community Center, part of an area where residents say illicit activity and trouble-making takes place at night. 

“This is definitely a step forward,” Graef said. “It’s not as close to the Reiche area as we would like, but at least it’s out of Harbor Terrace, which was a totally inappropriate place for that sort of agency.”

Graef said the community looks forward to helping the Police Department with its new community policing initiative.

“We’re very supportive of community policing and the changes that (Police) Chief (James) Craig has made in its organization,” Graef said. “We’re looking forward to being able to engage in more activities at Community Policing through the WECAN initiative.” 

Meanwhile, city and school officials have agreed to perform a space audit of the community center, Clegg said. That work will be performed by students from the University of Maine at Augusta and completed sometime in January.

Although city and school officials have said they do not support basing the policing station at the community center, which is attached and used by an elementary school, Clegg said city will still proceed with the audit.

“There was still some interest in examining the space at Reiche,” she said, “and that’s something we’re willing to move forward with.”

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net