DOVER-FOXCROFT – Sheriff’s departments in Piscataquis and Somerset counties will share a $780,000 Homeland Security grant to cover the cost of extra patrol coverage in the remote areas.
The federal grant, which covers three years, is to increase the law enforcement presence in these remote areas. It is supposed to enhance the Border Patrol’s mission, which is to prevent terrorists from entering the country, said Aaron Heitke, assistant chief patrol agent with the Border Patrol in Houlton.
Heitke said the money also is for use by Maine State Police, local police and the Maine Warden Service.
“If the sheriff’s office, police department, and state patrol have more people out there doing their normal duties, there’s a better chance of them coming across something that might come in,” Heitke said.
The Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Department began patrolling under the grant program last week.
On one such patrol on the Golden Road, Investigator Allen Emerson saw a vehicle that was in an unusual place, Lt. Robert Young of the Sheriff’s Department said Thursday.
Emerson checked the vehicle’s registration, then kept the vehicle under surveillance until its owner arrived. The owner, a convicted felon, was not arrested.
Lt. Carl Gottardi of the Somerset County Sheriff’s Department said his patrol officers have been involved in the project for the last few years.
“It’s a joint operation that we do along with Border Patrol and U.S. Customs. It’s geared toward advanced border security,” Gottardi said.
Young said the grant pays the overtime of officers to do the patrols outside of their regular duties for a sheriff’s department. For Piscataquis County, that means patrolling the Golden Road north of Greenville to Millinocket. He said the grant provides the overtime wages, lodging if needed, gasoline and vehicle expenditures, such as tires.
“We’re actually going to be putting people up there for a couple days at a time,” so lodging will be needed, Young said. He said the Maine State Police, the Maine Warden Service and local police also will be involved with the patrols.
Full-time officers from Brownville, Milo and Greenville will be used for the patrols as well, Young said. These officers have been deputized by the sheriff and they’ll be working on this project. “It makes it better to have the officers working together,” he said.
“We’re going to be enforcing laws as we normally do and we’ll be certainly looking for any illegal person coming down through and illegal drugs,” Young said. “That’s a fairly significant drug trafficking area,” he said.
Young said his office often gets reports of significant criminal activity in the remote areas but hasn’t had the resources to put people in those areas for an extended period.
“For our department this is great because it gives us a consistent, long-term presence up in that North Maine Woods and will allow us to really focus on some of the criminal activities that are happening up there,” Young said.