Congratulations to all those who were victorious in this week’s elections. Maine and its communities need nonpartisan leadership to address the challenges ahead. Topping the list are health care, energy options and an improved business climate, among other contenders.
Down low on the list, fortunately, are the safety and security of our communities. For the moment, we’ve got that covered.
The country’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program collects data from 150 Maine police agencies as well as 16,000 city, county and state law enforcement agencies around the nation. The idea is to provide essential data that cities and governments can use to make decisions about public safety and security. The latest tally from Maine should be reassuring.
Maine is No. 49 in crime in the nation, trailing only one other rural state, Vermont. With 127.8 reported violent and/or property crimes per 100,000 residents — second only to Vermont’s 99.3 per 100,000, Maine experiences only one-third of the national average of 375.5 crimes per 100,000 residents.
In Hancock County, the crime rate has been steadily dropping over the past three years, despite an increase in drug-related offenses. Throughout the state, the crime rate is on a steady six-year decline, dropping over 8 percent last year.
Perhaps our cold weather discourages the criminal activity lurking in other states. Maybe our rural nature, our sense of neighborhood and a shared, if tacit, appreciation of decency explain our enviable numbers. Or maybe, with so many Mainers being people of modest means, we’re not worth the efforts of the more ambitious robbers, thieves and embezzlers.
Despite — or because of — our aging population, we live in communities where we generally know our neighbors. Police can use Facebook to identify suspects quickly, avoiding the shootouts and Dragnet drama we see on TV in other areas of the country. Our work ethic is strong and we trust — a lot. There is in Maine a general courtesy and respect for the other, sometimes tested, but not often broken.
Our low crime rate should be especially attractive to retirees and to Realtors looking for a marketing angle beyond our scenery.
Lest we get too excited, we need to remember that we are far from a utopian ideal. There are still challenges aplenty. The opioid crisis is reshaping how we think about drug use and abuse. Alternate sentencing, drug courts, expanded treatment centers and drug addiction support by employers are all making inroads in suppressing crimes associated with opioid abuse.
Nor are opioids the only drugs. Alcohol abuse and drunken driving reports appear each week in our police reports, as does domestic abuse. So we’re not there yet.
But we can reasonably acknowledge that engaged citizens and good neighbors working cooperatively with dedicated police agencies are a part of the formula for creating safe communities.