OTISFIELD — Living in a town so small that it can’t support its own police department or even a library is no assurance its residents are immune to drug-related crimes.
In fact, the opposite may be true, says State Police Officer Jason Wing.
“Otisfield, in my experience, seems to have a good portion of drug traffickers or people who are buying or selling to support their own habits,” Wing said.
Over the years, according to news reports, drugs, paraphernalia and murder weapons have been recovered in Otisfield on Scribner Hill Road, Canada Hill, Ahonen Road, in the Crooked River and many other areas in town. Drug dealers, with connections to Otisfield, have been exposed on the local, state and federal level. Drug addicts have died.
This town has a year-round population of about 1,700 living in more than 700 households, according to the 2010 census.
So what draws the criminals in?
Think about it, Wing says. The 44.5 square miles of largely unpopulated land is the perfect geographical setup for the transfer of drugs. Gore Road splits the town and provides access to State Routes 117, 121, 11 and, ultimately, 26 and 302. Continue that trail to Interstate 95, which stretches about 1,700 miles to Miami, Fla., and leads, ultimately, to roads to South America, the heart of poppy-growing land.
Like other small towns in Oxford County, it is close to major tourist destinations such as Sunday River Ski Resort in Newry, Oxford Casino in Oxford and other popular resort areas. Plus it is a short drive to the more populated areas of Auburn-Lewiston and Portland that draw in people from outside of Maine, Wing notes.
Now the town doesn’t seem so remote.
Wing is part of Maine State Police, Troop B, out of Gray, which covers the northern sector of Oxford County from about Otisfield northward up to the Route 16 corridor in Wilson Mills.
He is on a mission to educate residents about the drug trafficking problem in their community and to get their help to provide any information they may have that may complete the puzzle for investigators in their attempt to shut down drug trafficking.
Wing has already met with selectmen in Woodstock and has visited towns throughout the area to post letters asking for assistance and to meet with town officials and residents in towns that do not have police departments.
Next week he will meet with residents of Otisfield. The meeting is being held on Tuesday, Nov. 10, in the Community Hall on Route 121, beginning at 7 p.m.
“People need to take ownership and take back their communities so we can help them,” Wing says.
State Police say the number of out-of-state drug traffickers coming to rural Maine, particularly with crack cocaine and heroin, is increasing at an unprecedented rate.
Last week, for example, the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency stopped a car just past the York toll plaza and arrested a woman who was transporting 42 grams of bulk heroin – worth about $8,000 – from New York. She was headed for the Bangor area where the drug was supposed to be distributed.
On the same day, a Bronx, N.Y., man was charged with felony drug offenses as part of an on-going investigation being conducted by agents assigned to Maine Drug Enforcement Agency’s Down East Task Force based in Ellsworth. The man was arrested after he stepped off a Greyhound bus carrying 41 grams of crack cocaine base with a street value of $6,000.
State Police Spokesman Stephen McCausland said the agents had recovered information the car would likely be transporting a large amount of heroin from New York.
The key is information, Wing explains. Information garnered from the general public.
Wing wants residents to know that the State Police want to work with them to shut down access to drugs.
“We want to move up the ladder,” he says, referring to information that can often come from those within the community that will lead police from the casual user to big-time dealer.
“Our end goal is to get to the source,” he explains.
Sometimes it takes courage to provide the information police need. Police know there are plenty of dealers walking around with guns who are prepared to use them. It is intimidating for informants.
“Everyone wants something done but they don’t want to get involved,” Wing says.
Residents also need to help State Police get the additional resources necessary to shut down drug dealers. With two Deputies and one State Trooper covering 19 towns and plantations not covered by a local police departments, and sheriff’s office coverage in Bethel, the job is difficult, he said. State legislators can help get the resources for addition law enforcement including drug dogs, he notes.
“I can’t do anything if people don’t help us,” Wing said.