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Orono ranks No. 14 on ‘Safewise’ Top 30 safest college towns in America

In a recently published article on Safewise, a website dedicated to safety and home security news, the town of Orono cracked the top 30 in “safest college towns in America.” Coming in at 14th, the article states, “this friendly college city is full of small-town charm and extraordinary natural treasures. Orono also boasts the University of Maine, which has been fulfilling its mission of research, education, and service for the past 150 years.”

The Orono Police Department, led by Chief of Police Josh Ewing, is dedicated to protecting and serving the college town. Ewing, a member of the Orono PD for 17 years now, wasn’t surprised by the news of Orono making the Safewise list. He explained that the university attracts students that are driven — students that have goals and plans for their future. He believes that students know the potential risks of being unsafe — “they recognize they have something to lose,” Ewing said.

Ewing mentioned that one of the biggest issues he faces patrolling a college town is managing parties in the Orono area. He clarified that, contrary to popular belief, Orono PD is not trying to kill student’s fun; they are simply there to manage it.

“99 percent of the time, the reason we go to a party is because we received a call. Sometimes intoxicated individuals don’t realize that there are other people that aren’t intoxicated and just want to go to bed, but can’t because of the noise.” Ewing added that Orono police officers are not trying to stop parties all together — they are simply there to manage possible dangerous or out-of-control situations. Orono PD does, in part, patrol College Avenue, a popular destination for college students to party on the weekends.

When in a situation where Orono PD has to step in and break up student parties, Ewing explained that the police officers typically deal with disorderly conduct cases.

Ewing calls his form of patrolling the town of Orono “community policing.” He explained that the civilians trust Orono PD and will call when there are issues with college students. He believes that being a police officer in a college town is a “high visibility job” — meaning a higher presence of police officers in the area suppresses crime.

Ewing mentioned that Orono PD and the Orono Fire Department will occasionally get together to discuss past, present and future situations, bringing together ideas and plans for the future.

Ewing also mentioned that in the past few years, the summer months in Orono have been increasingly busy.

“We’re seeing more students staying here over the summer months,” Ewing said. He believes it is in part due to the various new apartment complexes for student housing.

Chief Ewing and the Orono PD work with the University of Maine Police Department (UMPD) as well. Ewing described possible situations in which Orono would call UMPD or vice versa — mainly out of control parties on or near campus, as well as individual students. Ewing mentioned that if Orono PD deals with university students, they are referred to the university’s judicial affairs.

Chief of Police for UMPD, Roland LaCroix, also mentioned that UMPD and Orono PD work hand-in-hand in keeping the town safe for civilians and college students together. They not only share information with each other about what’s occurring in the area, but they also agree that underage drinking is one of the biggest issues faced in the town.

“There’s not too much serious crime,” LaCroix said. “One of my biggest concerns is sexual assaults.” LaCroix detailed his frustrations for the underreporting of sexual assaults, not only on the Orono campus, but in the nation. Out of the number of sexual assaults on the Orono campus the previous 2015-2016 school year, only a handful of cases were reported to UMPD. “It’s sad,” Lacroix said.

Charged with upholding law and order on campus, LaCroix and his staff put forth their best efforts in reaching as many students as possible with the message that sexual assault will be taken seriously by UMPD and in explaining the consequences of such actions.

LaCroix reported that there are 19 full-time officers on staff with the UMPD. There are extra officers working on the weekends to keep the campus as safe as possible and if needed, other regional departments can be called for help in threatening situations.

“About 99 percent of our students are good, but there are some troublemakers,” Lacroix said.

Both LaCroix and Ewing expect the town of Orono and the students in it to continue their safe habits and keep the college town one to be proud of.

The full Safewise report can be found here.

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