CARIBOU, Maine — Caribou officials are taking steps to potentially stop alleged drug activity from taking place at a house on Prospect Street after hearing several public complaints about what occurs there.
Several weeks ago, councilors heard the tragic story of Hanah White, a 22-year-old woman found dead from a drug overdose in a Sweden Street home that her family claimed was a spot for drug dealing. That prompted discussion about other so-called drug houses, including one at 15 Prospect St. — known locally as “the Brown House” — that has been the subject of many complaints and police investigations.
Two women who spoke at the meeting said they knew of drug activity at the house, including some involving White. Their testimony and the city’s efforts to clean up blighted, dangerous and nuisance buildings highlight the importance of the state laws that enable them to make their city safer.
Caribou Code Enforcement Officer Ken Murchison told councilors Monday night that his office has sent seven violation notices to the owner, hoping to inspect the property and determine if it poses health and safety risks.
Murchison delivered the most recent violation notice to the property owner in person on Monday. He did not name the property owner due to ongoing police investigations, but said the person still refused to comply with inspections.
That leaves the fate of the house in the hands of city councilors.
The seven-member City Council unanimously voted to schedule a public hearing for Nov. 14, when it will hear from the public and vote on whether to declare the house a nuisance property in accordance with state statute.
Though the city has previously declared certain properties dangerous under a similar state statute, a nuisance property is not necessarily a safety hazard, Murchison said.
“With a dangerous property, there is a full-on safety issue that you can clearly see,” Murchison said.
But a potential nuisance property still becomes a concern when city departments like police and fire receive excessive calls to the home, as is the case with 15 Prospect St., he said.
Caribou police Sgt. Mark Gahagan declined to comment on specific incidents at 15 Prospect St. due to ongoing investigations.
City tax records list 15 Prospect St. as belonging to John Barretto. Police did not indicate whether Barretto was ever the subject of criminal investigations related to the house.
Several Caribou residents spoke to councilors about alleged experiences they or others have had with people associated with that house.
Skyler Hooey, 20, said that she has watched friends and classmates, including White, become addicted to drugs after going to the Prospect Street house.
She urged city leaders to be more persistent in addressing and potentially tearing down similar homes.
“Why wasn’t this done sooner?” Hoey asked. “I grew up with Hanah. I have lost so many people because of drugs.”
Tristin Soucier, 20, told councilors about her past struggles with drug addiction. Many of her experiences abusing drugs took place at 15 Prospect St., she said.
“This house has to be torn down, and I wish that would’ve happened sooner,” Soucier said. “It’s where kids have gone to get booze and get high.”
Councilors thanked the women for speaking out and encouraged them and others to raise concerns during the upcoming public hearing, which will be held during the City Council meeting at 6 p.m. Nov. 14 at Caribou Municipal Building at 25 High St.