LINCOLNVILLE — Citizens across a wide swath of Lincolnville were startled in mid-June by loud booms, thought to be cannon blasts. They weren’t pleased by the late-hour noise, especially those who own livestock, dogs and children, who were scared.
At a July 12 regularly scheduled meeting, the Select Board in Lincolnville consulted with Waldo County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Cody Laite, himself a resident of Lincolnville, about residents’ concern over the noise. The board sought clarification about the role of law enforcement and the parameters of disorderly conduct charges.
The suspected gunshots and cannon blasts were heard on consecutive nights, earning a series of comments on a Lincolnville community Facebook page.
Booming, shooting, and ‘whatever the heck is happening every night,’ raised alarms throughout town, with the issue making its way before municipal leaders one month later.
Lincolnville does not have a noise ordinance, but the possibility of drafting one had been posed. The Select Board had asked Town Administrator David Kinney to contact Waldo County Sheriff Jeffrey Trafton about how disorderly conduct is enforced by law enforcement, and invited a representative from the district attorney’s office to attend the Select Board meeting.
“Sheriff Trafton was nice enough to volunteer Sgt. Laite to come and I haven’t heard a thing from the D.A.’s office,” said Kinney, at the meeting.
Select Board member Keryn Laite, Jr., asked Sgt. Laite to explain to the town how citizens can lean on law enforcement to help, as opposed to creating a new ordinance.
“We've got information as to what the disturbance is,” said Select Board member Laite. “But what can we do?”
Sgt. Laite responded, outlining that the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office, which has three deputies patrolling the county during the night, shares Lincolnville coverage with Maine State Police some of the tme. Waldo County comprises 25 municipalities and covers a geographic area of 724 square miles.
The call-share arrangement with the Maine State Police entails that the S.O. covers Lincolnville six out of every eight weeks.
“There are two weeks that the State Police cover it,” said Sgt. Laite. “I can’t speak to them, but I think our response to the complaints are very much aligned.”
He said that the S.O. receives noise complaints, “at all hours of the day, and all hours of the evening.”
But, said, Sgt. Laite, the only time noise complaints generally fall under the category of disorderly conduct is when they occur at an unreasonable time of night, or when noise — music, gunshots, whooping and hollering, is unreasonable in nature.
A logging operation at 6 a.m. is a reasonable operation because people, “are out there making a living,” he said. “Fireworks or gunshot at 1 a.m., that’s unreasonable noise.”
The hour of 10 p.m. is usually when disorderly conduct enforcement comes comes into play, he said. Or, if people are fighting in a public area, law enforcement would respond.
If gunshots are heard and emanating from private property before 10 p.m., the Sheriff’s Office would talk with the person concerned about the noise and educate them about options to explore, or make contact with those making the noise.
However, he said, law enforcement cannot hold noisemakers accountable for disorderly conduct until the 10 p.m. threshold kicks off.
After that, law enforcement can issue an immediate warning, not a summons.
If conduct doesn’t cease in a 24-hour period, law enforcement, “can go charge them.”
Similarly, if two people live in the same household are fighting and making unreasonable noise, the clock also kicks in, he said. If they don’t get along, and are warned by law enforcement to cease conduct, but fail to comply within a 24-hour period, they can be arrested for disorderly conduct.
But, if there is a pause in the unreasonable noise, but resumes after the 24-hour period, the whole cycle gets repeated.
Select Board member Jordan Barnett-Parker said July 12 that what prompted the current discussion concerned, “someone blasting a cannon at 10 p.m. on a regular basis, with so much gunpowder, peoples’ houses were shaking miles away.”
He added, “It seems like there’s a lot more explosions and fireworks in the town of Lincolnville, even after 10 p.m., in the last two years,” and noted that is the,” bulk of what people have written to me about — explosions happening at night, cannon or fireworks.”
Sgt. Laite said that when complaints such as those get, “dispatched out, we have to prioritize calls, but that doesn’t take away from credence of your complaint.”
Town Administrator Kinney asked Sgt. Laite to clarify the course of action of citizens who might be bothered by such behavior.
“Contact dispatch,” said Sgt. Laite.
Dispatch is the Waldo County’s Regional Communications Center (WCRCC), which handles all calls for law enforcement, fire and medical emergencies.
Its primary number is 911, and for non-emergency calls, the number is 338-2040.
Dispatchers will get in touch with the on-duty deputy or trooper covering the area, said Sgt. Laite.
“If one deputy takes a complaint two nights in row, they will use common sense and common practice to be proactive,” he said. “If an individual feels their complaint isn’t being heard, or it’s not being addressed, call the same number and ask to speak to the supervisor.”
He said: “We depend on the community to reach us. We really depend on everybody.”
Concerning after-hour parties at Lincolnville Beach, Sgt. Laite noted that the beach is posted with a municipal ordinance that closes it at 11 p.m.
If that ordinance specifying 11 p.m. closure was not posted, law enforcement would have more clout with the disorderly conduct law specifying a 10 p.m. unreasonable noise threshold.
But law enforcement does not have the legal standing to enforce town ordinance, he said.
Lincolnville did have its own police department but dissolved it in 2013 by a town vote of 187 to 163.
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