Public Safety

Recent Stories

After ‘end of the world’ explosion, Quebec town tries to find hope

Yannick Gagne, at his Lac-Mégantic bar, the Musicafé, before a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded on July 6, 2013, creating a fire that killed 30 people in the bar and reduced it to cinders.

Eight months ago, the people of Lac-Mégantic thought the world was ending.
A runaway 72-car train carrying a volatile variety of crude oil derailed and exploded in this community of 6,000, killing 47 people and destroying the town center.
Now, on a rare sunny morning in early March, ice melted to slush and water trickled into sewer drains in this village 10 miles from Maine’s western border.
The sound made Yannick Gagné smile – a reminder to him that spring is coming. Continue Reading →

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Maine responders need to be better prepared to fight Lac Mégantic-type derailment

Jackman Railroad Photo 2

Less than a year ago, a runaway train carrying crude oil derailed in Lac-Mégantic, a small Quebec town ten miles from the Maine border.

Thousands of gallons of the highly flammable crude oil spilled from ruptured tank cars, setting off fireballs in the town’s center that killed 47 people and destroyed 30 buildings. Some bodies were likely vaporized and never identified.

An investigation by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting reveals the burden for planning and responding to a Lac-Mégantic-level catastrophe will fall on state and local emergency services, which may not have all the information, training or material they could need. Continue Reading →

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Some pharmacists get their licenses back despite history of drug abuse

Prescription pain pills cropped

The sole purpose of the board that regulates pharmacists in Maine is to “protect the public health and welfare,” according to state law. But in thirteen cases over the last decade the board has jeopardized the public’s health by allowing people with a history of substance abuse and theft to hold a license to dispense drugs at pharmacies across the state. Continue Reading →

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“Best Investigative Reporting on US Guns You Might Have Missed” includes Center’s gun subsidies story

The Investigative Fund, a project of the Nation Institute, has included the Center's story on gun subsidies, "States have subsidized makers of assault rifles to tune of $19 million," on their list of six stories that constitute the "Best Investigative Reporting on US Guns You Might Have Missed." We're proud to join our investigative reporting colleagues at Mother Jones, The Tampa Bay Times, The Chicago Reporter and City Limits on the Nation Institute's list. You can see the entire list here. Continue Reading →

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States have subsidized makers of assault rifles to tune of $19 million

Assault rifle from Smith and Wesson online catalog

Taxpayers across the country are subsidizing the manufacturers of assault rifles used in multiple mass killings, including the massacre of 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. last month. Continue Reading →

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EPA investigating toxic laundry emissions in New England

Mark Spiro, CT DEEP air pollution control engineer Photo Tony Bacewicz

The moment Mark Spiro walked into G&K Services, an industrial laundry in Waterbury, Conn., the steamy air stung his eyes and made his head ache. The place reeked of chemical solvents: methyl ethyl ketone, xylene, toluene – the sickly sweet scents of spray paint, permanent markers and model glue. Continue Reading →

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Dexter tragedy brings bipartisan focus to domestic violence bail decisions

Purple balloons were launched by the attendees at a gathering in remembrance of Amy, Coty and Monica Lake who were murdered by Amy's husband Steven Lake, the father of their children. Photo Diana Bowley, BDN

Sometimes it takes a death. Sometimes it takes four deaths: a mother, her two children and the man who killed them and then killed himself. The deaths of Amy, Monica and Coty Lake at the hands of their husband and father, Steven Lake, may be the tragedy that brings major reform to how the criminal justice system handles dangerous domestic violence cases. The June 13 triple murder-suicide is becoming a rallying point

for changes in the system from an unofficial coalition of domestic violence groups, leading Republicans and Democrats and the state’s top judge and top cop. “Change will occur,” said Brian Gagan. Continue Reading →

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‘Broken’ bail system freed man who went on to murder family

Steven Lake   Photo Piscataquis County Jail

“These four people died needlessly …”

-- From a psychological autopsy of the triple murder and suicide in Dexter, June 13, 2011

The study rests on a shelf deep in the documents room at the state library. It has been sitting there since September 2006, most of its recommendations going the way of the hundreds of government blue ribbon studies that fill the other shelves – waiting for action. Among the report’s findings: a strong critique of Maine‘s archaic bail system, a system that entrusts to minimally trained bail commissioners the decision of whether potentially dangerous men and women can be free on bail. The people who asked for the study – with the bland title, “Pretrial Case Processing in Maine” – are the same people who could implement the recommendations: the state legislators. If they had taken the findings to heart, turned them into legislation and funded them, they might have saved lives. Continue Reading →

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What Maine could do to minimize winter power outages

In the last three months, three storms have blacked out tens of thousands of electric customers in New England. Mayors can lose elections because of poor snow plowing, but can utility executives lose their jobs because of power outages? The president of Connecticut Light & Power, the largest electric company in the Nutmeg State, found out.  He was forced to resign after his company was slow to return homes to service and gave misleading information about when the lights would come on again following the Halloween storm. His fate illustrates just how serious the problem of frequent storm-related outages has become. Power lines are vulnerable.  Usually breaking or grounding a single strand of relatively thin, bare wire is all it takes to cause an outage.  Telephone lines are insulated, so they are far less vulnerable to breaking and can even support more weight than most local power lines. Continue Reading →

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