Ryan, who operates a third-generation fishing company, described multiple incidents with members of the Fore River and Casco Bay Bridge encampments but one theft that is difficult to imagine – a stolen lobster boat. His son is learning the ropes of the lobstering industry through a local apprenticeship program. “He has ten traps, they teach them not to encroach on others, how to take care of gear, it’s a good program,” said Ryan.
Enough is Enough spoke with Ryan about the crime on the pier where he docks his fishing boat where he described the details. While having a cup of coffee on his fishing boat in the morning he heard some noise outside and caught a man aboard his son’s small lobster boat. “He tossed his gear overboard and took off on the boat. I scurried down to find a small boat to pursue, by the time I got another vessel the tide had shifted, and it made it impossible for me to get up the Fore River to the beach adjacent to the airport where they had dumped the boat,” said Ryan.
With the gear in the ocean, the thief beached the boat at the water’s edge of the former Fore River encampment and flipped it over in the mud. Ryan said it was one of three boats they discovered stolen by members of that location. It wasn’t the first time he and others on the commercial pier have had issues with theft in recent months. While his family was sleeping on the boat, he heard noises and discovered people stealing tools and other items. That prompted him to install security systems to protect their assets which he has characterized as “hard to believe in Portland, Maine.”
After daily thefts continued, he and another fisherman walked across the street to ask members of the encampment if they could stop trespassing and taking their tools Ryan described the response, “We were met by one man with a machete, he threatened us and then whistled to a man on a bicycle who took off and the rest of the troops at the encampment rallied with the rest of their machetes and started making their way up the hill towards us.”
Enough is Enough has interviewed residents and business owners who had negative encounters as the city fails to provide basic services for members of the encampment and enforce laws in the surrounding area. Many are reluctant to speak out, fearing retribution, property damage, and fear of being seen as uncompassionate to those who are struggling. “I think if they need help, we should help them in a way that is positive,” Ryan said.
The problems in the encampments described by witnesses from drug crimes, and violent behavior would not be tolerated in a shelter or assistance facility but that shouldn’t permit the same type of activities in a public setting either. “Putting them under a bridge and allowing open access to drugs is not a solution,” Ryan asserted.
Workers reported an increase in suspected drug traffic and other nefarious activity in parking lots on Commercial Street as out-of-state cars travel up to meet individuals from the encampment. Often, they are moved away when workers approach, but the traffic continues to increase awareness of the activity. Recently, a dock worker who was working with a nearby homeless encampment was attacked, “He was trying to work with the guy, then one morning turned around and was hit in the head with a 2×4,” Ryan said.
What Lesson is Learned?
Following the lobster boat theft, police report, and an initial admission of guilt, the District Attorney’s Office made a decision that they would not prosecute, “It’s difficult to tell your ten-year-old son learning a craft and responsibility that someone can take something, cause damage to your property and nothing happens what lesson does he learn?” Ryan questioned.
Countless articles have been written demonstrating the need for city action, while the vast majority are from the perspective of those in the encampments, it’s clear everyone is looking for city leadership on the growing problem.