ROCKLAND — Over the past three months, Rockland Police have responded to more than 95 calls for service involving issues with juveniles in Rockland.

The department issued a statement Thursday, Nov. 3 about the juvenile crime situation.

Many of these complaints are occurring during the day when the juveniles should be in school. The vast majority of these calls involve a small group of approximately six juveniles, ranging from 12 to 16 years old, some of whom are in DHHS “custody” and refuse to return to their foster placement.

These incidents have included assaults (on both juveniles and adults), public intoxication, verbal threatening, disorderly conduct, trespassing at businesses and theft (including alcohol). Director Prescott of the Flanagan Center has had to close the facility at times due to the disruptive behavior and recently one of his employees was assaulted while trying to break up a fight.

These calls have resulted in several criminal charges. But, due to the lack of enforcement options and no controlled juvenile facility being available to law enforcement or DHHS, the criminal charges have only resulted in the issuance of a paper summons, which has put the offending juveniles back on the street in a matter of minutes, only for police to be called to another incident involving the same group of juveniles.

On Oct. 31, at approximately 5 p.m., Sgt. Michael Izzi and Chief Tim Carroll responded to the Flanagan Center and adjacent city playground for a group of juveniles being loud and causing a disturbance. This location has become one of several problem areas where juveniles have been acting out recently, using profanity, smoking and fighting.

During their response, Sgt. Izzi and Chief Carroll located a juvenile who had a warrant for her arrest for pending assault charges. The juvenile was notified of the warrant and placed under arrest. As Izzi took control of the juvenile’s left arm, she turned and struck Izzi in the face with an open hand. Carroll gained control of that arm and she was placed in handcuffs without injury or further force being used.

As the juvenile was placed in the cruiser, several other juveniles started to arrive. Approximately five juveniles surrounded the cruiser, all while screaming profanities at the officers and preventing them from leaving. Eventually Chief Carroll was able to get the group of juveniles away from the cruiser, allowing Sgt. Izzi to transport the detained juvenile to the Rockland Police Department. Once at the police department, the group of juveniles arrived at the police station and were inside the foyer screaming vulgarities at the police and kicking at the doors.

Eventually, Rockland Police were able to get the Juvenile Corrections Officer and Long Creek Youth Development Center to accept the juvenile on the outstanding warrant and new assault on an officer charge (they had initially requested the juvenile be released with a summons).

Due to the complex and bureaucratic process, two officers had to be ordered in to transport the juvenile, first to Maine Medical Center for medical clearance and then to Long Creek (a six-hour-long process, during which time the juvenile had continued to assault officers). Additionally, due to the other juveniles’ disruptive behavior, another officer had to be ordered in to assist officers on the road.

In total, the process of transporting one juvenile to Long Creek cost the City of Rockland over $1,000 in additional staffing and transport costs. The juvenile was released from Long Creek within 48 hours and within 72 hours was back on the streets, having again run away from DHHS custody.

Due to the ongoing juvenile problem facing the citizens of Rockland, Rockland Police, RSU 13, the Rockland Library and the Flanagan Center, Chief Carroll has called a meeting with the State of Maine Department of Health and Human Services, the District Attorney’s Office, Juvenile Probation, the RSU 13 Superintendent’s Office and local city officials to come up with a better way to deal with these juveniles that obviously need help and intervention.

Chief Carroll and Rockland Police are concerned someone is going to get seriously hurt and are equally bothered by the fact that the legislative approach of diverting out-of-control juveniles from Long Creek leaves no other option or resources for law enforcement or juvenile probation, resulting in at-risk juveniles being released back on the street in a matter of minutes, only to commit more crimes and put the community and the juveniles in harm’s way.

“I understand the mindset of not wanting to arrest and lock kids up. I am a true believer that these kids ultimately need help. With the State’s stance from Legislature of ‘close Long Creek,’ they have not provided us (law enforcement, DHHS, Probation or prosecutors) any answers or resources to help these kids, and they (the juveniles) know it. I know this particular juvenile was not allowed on the property and I told her so. She looked at me and said, ‘What are you going to do about it?’ I am not going to get into a physical altercation with a 14-year-old girl, that I know this girl was looking for, for a simple trespass charge and will be released back to the streets in no time,” said Chief Carroll. “They challenge us in hopes for it to go viral of the police grabbing and detaining these ‘kids.'”