AUGUSTA – Violent crime in Maine has dropped in all but two categories over the last year.
“We’re happy to report there was a 9.3 percent overall reduction in crime in 2018 over ’17,” Commissioner Michael Sauschuck of the Maine Department of Public Safety said Wednesday. “It’s really the end of a seven-year string of staggering reductions overall. The state of Maine had a 56 percent decrease in crime over that seven-year period.
“Those numbers are completely off the charts,” he said.
Simple assaults increased by 4.7 percent and homicides increased from 21 in 2017 to 23 during 2018.
However, every other category decreased.
Arson, burglary and domestic violence had double-digit decreases, and there were above 8 percent decreases in aggravated assault, robbery, and theft. Minor decreases were reported in vehicle thefts and rape.
“It kind of mirrors some of the national statistics and national information we see about crime stats,” Sauschuck said.
For years, drugs were blamed for a lot of the crime in the state, with users stealing, breaking into homes or assaulting people to feed their addiction, said one sheriff.
“For a number of reasons, we’re doing a better job dealing with the opioid crisis,” Sheriff Joel Merry of the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday. “And because we’ve been able to suppress that to a certain degree it’s had a ripple effect on other crimes.”
Taskforce teams created to address the opioid epidemic have led to increased education and resources for prevention and recovery.
“A number of our jails now are offering medication-assisted treatment in the facility… so that when people want to or as part of their rehabilitation they can begin to take steps to move forward,” Merry said.
The commissioner said the figures are not just numbers.
“Each and every one of those stats is actually a resident of the state of Maine,” Sauschuck said. “They’re one of our family members.”