Public Safety

Recent Stories

DEP to make oil train data public again

The DEP will resume releasing data on oil and other hazardous materials moving on Maine rails.

The Department of Environmental Protection will resume releasing data on oil rail shipments in Maine, reversing a five-month policy that kept the information out of the public eye.

Just last month, the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting filed a Freedom of Access Act request for the monthly data. The DEP, acting on the advice of the Attorney General's office, decided that the oil data summaries were not covered by a new and controversial law that meant to make hazardous material rail shipments secret. Continue Reading →

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Legislature sidestepped records law to end public access to oil train data

The DEP will resume releasing data on oil and other hazardous materials moving on Maine rails.

A 2015 law that ended the public's right to know about hazardous freight on Maine railways sidestepped normal legislative processes, ignored federal policies and overcame a gubernatorial veto. Now even the law's sponsor agrees it needs to be changed. Continue Reading →

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‘We’re not getting anywhere’: A judge’s day enforcing victim restitution orders

Steven Bell appears before Judge Gregory Campbell on Aug. 20 in Bangor District Court for a hearing on his restitution order

On the afternoon of Aug. 20, three offenders who owe victims restitution came before District Court Judge Gregory Campbell in his Bangor courtroom. Their cases illustrate common issues the courts have in enforcing restitution agreements. One had been successfully paying back restitution — little by little — on a payment plan; another had failed to stick to a payment plan; and the third left promising to return with money, and never returned. Continue Reading →

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Chief judge: Restitution “system is imperfect and we know it”

Kennebec County Courthouse, Augusta

A Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting investigation has found that the state system for compensating victims of non-violent crimes is overburdened, uncoordinated and promises what it can’t deliver.

“The system is imperfect and we know it,” said Judge Charles LaVerdiere, chief judge of the Maine District Court.

He said that as a judge in Maine, he’s found that the “vast majority” of people who come to court and agree to restitution payments find out later that they don’t have the ability to pay as promised. Continue Reading →

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Crime victims have little help getting their due from the system

Justice test

For Linda Descoteaux of Saco, the last nine years have been full of calls, letters and promises from Maine courts that go unfulfilled.

When a man defrauded her of $4,000 in 2005, the York County district attorney’s office sent her a letter saying he’d pay her back part of what he stole by 2009.

“[H]e will pay you restitution in the amount of $1,500 by the 46th month of probation,” wrote York County Courthouse Assistant District Attorney Patrick Gordon in a letter dated September, 7, 2005.

Since then, she said she’s only received a single $110.66 check. Continue Reading →

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‘Fundamental reality’: State’s system for helping crime victims a failure

Geoffrey Rushlau, district attorney for Sagadahoc, Waldo, Lincoln and Knox counties

District attorneys from across the state are as frustrated as crime victims with the fundamental reality of the restitution system in Maine: it's broken. Maine crime victims are waiting for millions of dollars – perhaps as much as $12 million – in payments ordered by the courts from the people who stole their money, broke into their car or burglarized their home. Continue Reading →

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Veterans’ group victimized by $50k fraud — and then by justice system

Members of the York American Legion Post 56. Left to right_ Jim Fitzpatrick, Kandace Minihane, Bill Hallisey, Commander Robin Greene, Chuck Arboch, Pete Doe, and Robert Seeley

In 1977, the Maine legislature amended the state criminal code to require courts to consider ordering restitution because it can “reinforce the offender's sense of responsibility,” let him pay back his debt to society and the victim, and “ease the burden of the victim.” But 37 years later, this has long been easier said than done, with those assigned the task of collecting restitution pointing to the futility of trying to get money from poor offenders. They cite a variant of the cliché: “It’s like trying to get blood from a turnip.” Continue Reading →

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Maine’s D.C. delegation raises doubts about fed response to hazardous materials rail shipments

Sen. Susan Collins

If a railroad spilled thousands of gallons of oil in Maine, no one in the state – or in Washington – knows what the railroads would do or if they’re prepared for such a disaster. Members of Maine's congressional delegation say that’s the reason they are pushing federal regulators to strengthen planning, response and mitigation requirements for railroads that transport hazardous materials such as highly flammable crude oil. Continue Reading →

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New US rail safety rules will not apply to all trains carrying explosive crude oil

Jackman Railroad Photo 2

Just as the state has revealed that crude oil shipments by rail have resumed along the state’s rail lines, Maine state emergency officials say new federal rules about shipping hazardous materials such as crude by rail don't go far enough. Continue Reading →

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Maine fire departments signing up for more rail safety training

AUGUSTA- Ever since a crude oil train disaster decimated a Quebec village’s downtown last July, more and more Maine fire departments have been requesting training on rail safety.

“I’m booking right now straight into November,” said Richard Towle, who coordinates such training as a law enforcement liaison for the Federal Rail Administration. Continue Reading →

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