Oct. 4, 2007
CRIME INCREASED 22% IN BANGOR LAST YEAR,
LARGEST INCREASE IN CRIME RATE OF ANY MAINE CITY
PORTLAND – Recently released data on crime in Maine show a jump in Bangor’s crime rate of more than 20% in the first full year of the operation of Hollywood Slots, disputing claims by casino proponents that crime would actually decline.
According to an analysis of data recently posted on the Maine Department of Public Safety’s website, Bangor’s crime rate went from 51.6 offenses per 1,000 residents in 2005 to 63 offenses in 2006, an increase of 22%, the biggest increase of any city in Maine. The increase in Bangor’s crime rate came at a time when the city’s population actually declined and follows two years of steady decreases in the city’s crime rate.
Part of the increase was due to a sharp rise of larceny, which includes embezzlement, from 1,304 cases in 2005 to 1,633 in 2006 – an additional larceny almost every day. Penobscot County as a whole saw only a slight increase in crime, from 29.7 offenses per 1,000 residents to 32.3 offenses; however nearby Brewer saw its crime rate rise more than 15%.
“We’re not suggesting a direct link between the increase in crime and the operation of Hollywood Slots,” said Dennis Bailey, executive director of CasinosNO! “More study of the data would have to be done, and we’ll have to see what it looks like three to five years from now.
“But the double-digit increase in Bangor’s crime rate is certainly troubling, and it refutes suggestions by some casino supporters who claim that casinos actually reduce crime through jobs and economic development,” Bailey continued. “Clearly, that hasn’t happened.”
A November 25, 2006 article in the Bangor Daily News quoted Jon Johnson, the general manager of Hollywood Slots, saying, “I have never seen gambling lead to an increase in crime. Unemployment creates crime. When you bring in economic development to an area, crime goes down. The slots facility is part of that.”
But according to the Maine Department of Labor, Penobscot County’s unemployment rate dropped slightly between 2005 and 2006, from 5.1% to 4.9% - meaning fewer people were unemployed – while Bangor’s crime rate increased in the same period by 22%.
By comparison, the cities of Lewiston, Auburn, Rockland and Waterville all saw decreases in their crime rates between 2005-2006. Biddeford’s crime rate increased less than one percent, while Portland’s crime rate increased 15%.
Bangor is the only city in Maine with a licensed slot machine parlor. Hollywood Slots, with 475 slot machines, opened its doors in November 2005.
“What this data means is we need better information and more study to find out what is really going on in Bangor,” said Bailey. “There’s often no way to tell when someone commits a crime to feed a gambling habit. Police and court records don't always show that when someone is charged with stealing from his employer or breaking into a camp to rob something, he’s doing it to get money to play the slot machines. The same is true of bankruptcies, domestic violence and even suicides, which don’t show up in the crime data but are often related to gambling debts and addiction.
“Before we begin adding more slot machines and casinos in Maine we should take some time to determine their full impact,” Bailey said.
Voters in November will be asked to approve another facility with 1,500 slot machines in Washington County.
The state’s crime data can be found HERE.
CONTACT: Dennis Bailey, 207-347-6077