After two home burglaries in which purses and cash were stolen and other incidents of suspicious behavior and vandalism last weekend, some residents of Bangor’s West Side are concerned that the city might be experiencing an uptick in that sort of activity.
Kelly DiFrederico, who lives on Silver Road, awoke early Saturday morning to a loud sound somewhere in her house. Upon going downstairs to investigate, she found her purse missing and her back door, which was locked, wide open. After notifying the Bangor Police Department, the following day her purse was found on the side of the road on Hammond Street, near the Interstate 95 North on-ramp, with everything in it but her wallet, cash and credit cards.
“I have always felt like we live in such a safe neighborhood,” DiFrederico said. “I’ve been talking to my neighbors all week about it. It definitely makes you feel violated. It makes me think I need to get a security system.”
Jennifer, a Sixth Street resident who did not want to give her last name and who lives just a few blocks away from DiFrederico, also had her house broken into on Saturday. Her purse and Apple Watch were stolen that evening, as was food from her kitchen. Like DiFrederico, she found her door left wide open, and her purse was later found on the street.
Other incidents that occurred on the West Side last weekend included two trash cans being set on fire on Sunday evening, and a neighborhood resident spotting an individual peering inside windows on Silver Road around midnight on Sunday.
Presently, there’s no discernible spike in the number of break-ins, car burglaries, bike thefts or other criminal activity in any of Bangor’s neighborhoods, said Sgt. Wade Betters, public information officer for the Bangor Police Department. These sorts of things happen regularly, he said, and Bangor residents need to do their due diligence in keeping their property secure.
“We are not at the point where we’d say we have a big new problem, but this does happen consistently,” Betters said. “We just always have to encourage people to lock their houses and their cars, and to not leave anything of value in your vehicle. If you do, make sure it can’t be seen. Just lock everything.”
Bangor’s rate of violent crime is lower than that of Maine’s other large cities. It had just 35 reported incidents of violent crime in 2019, compared to 161 for Portland and 107 for Lewiston, according to FBI crime statistics. That gave Bangor a violent crime rate of 1.1 incidents for every 1,000 residents, compared with 2.98 for Lewiston, 2.63 for Augusta, 2.42 for Portland, 2.21 for Waterville and 1.46 for Auburn.
However, Bangor last year did have the highest rate of property crime of any Maine city last year, with 36.6 incidents per 1,000 residents in 2019, and 1,168 total reported incidents, according to the FBI statistics. The next closest city was Brewer, with 33.5 incidents per 1,000 residents, followed by Augusta, with 31.5 incidents per 1,000 residents. Portland had 25.8 incidents per 1,000 residents. Property crime includes burglary and theft.
In most cases, Betters said, burglaries will usually involve an individual going door to door, trying doors and pulling car door handles to see if they’re open. If items are stolen, it’s usually cash and cards, as well as items such as electronics, firearms, power tools and other valuable things that can be quickly exchanged for cash.
“It is often an attempt to fuel a drug addiction,” Betters said. “People will do just about anything to stave off withdrawal from drugs.”
Bangor is presently grappling with an increase in its homeless population, which includes a large number of individuals experiencing drug addiction. Bangor police’s community outreach officer, Liz Ashe, works with individuals in that population, and officers regularly patrol all of Bangor’s streets.
Betters said that the best thing someone can do when reporting a crime or suspicious activity is to call the police immediately, and not email them or send them a message on social media. He also said that home security cameras — provided they are placed in such a way that they can clearly capture what’s happening — can be an invaluable tool.
“Surveillance video, photographs and phone calls to report suspicious things while they’re happening are key to our success,” he said.
Betters said that Bangor residents should be additionally careful this time of year with packages being delivered to their homes during the holiday season, and suggested that if people are not home to immediately retrieve packages from outside, to either have a neighbor grab them, or arrange to pick up their packages at a mail distribution center.