SOUTHWEST HARBOR — “There is so much heroin out there that it would scare you to death,” Hancock County Sheriff Scott Kane told members of the Acadia-area League of Towns at their meeting here last week.
“Our economy is being killed with drugs. My jail is full of people who are addicted. Burglaries, assaults, robberies … all those types of things are drug driven.”
Kane praised the work of the county’s Drug Task Force, but said its three agents and their supervisor are so overwhelmed that going after people for marijuana offenses has become a low priority.
“From marijuana, people went to pills, and now there are so many people who have gone from pills to heroin because it’s so cheap,” Kane said. “It’s insane.”
The Hancock County Jail is licensed for 58 inmates, and Kane said it is nearly always full. He said many of the people in the jail at any given time don’t belong there.
“We are housing people who should be in drug treatment or a mental health facility. We’ve looked to the state for more funding because the jail has become a dumping point.”
Kane said some people are in jail for probation or bail violations or because they can’t make bail. And he cited one current inmate who he said likely could make bail but has not done so. He was arrested in December.
“He’s on a $250,000 cash bail because he is one of the biggest drug dealers in the state, allegedly,” Kane said. “He could probably find the $250,000, but then he would have to go before the court and say where he got it. And having a paper route or being a stern guy [on a lobster boat] isn’t going to generate that kind of cash.”
Kane said that when officers searched the man’s house, they seized 400 grams of heroin with a street value of more than $150,000.
“That was and still is the largest single seizure of heroin product in the state of Maine ever,” he said. “We also seized 21 pounds of processed marijuana, 750 pills that are sold on the street for between $50 and $80 each, more than $40,000 in cash, seven guns and over $100,000 in vehicles. That tells me there is a huge appetite for drugs here.”
The sheriff’s department and area police departments have reported a significant increase in deaths believed to be from overdoses of heroin over the past few months. Several suspected overdose deaths have occurred in both Bar Harbor and Ellsworth this spring.
Kane said the county commissioners have been “fantastic to work with” and have increased his department’s budget. But he said the state needs to provide more funding, and he is looking at possible sources of federal money to meet growing needs.
For example, he said, “I think we need a canine, and I think we need to address that soon, particularly with the drug problem that we have.”