Police have a name for them, several names, actually.

Frequent flyers. Repeat offenders — those people whose behavior, often fueled by drugs or mental illness, requires constant and time-consuming police involvement, but are seldom criminal.

They’re a growing headache for police forces that are under-funded and over-worked.

When David Maxwell McCaslin, 71, of Winslow, was arrested in Waterville this month for allegedly assaulting a rescue worker, police knew exactly who he was. He was convicted of doing the same thing last month.

In fact, McCaslin has been the subject of more than 100 police calls.

Police say habitual offenders like McCaslin pose a problem without easy answers. If there is a crime, it’s usually not serious enough to warrant lengthy jail sentences, so the cycle continues. Social services and courts can provide therapy and rehabilitation in some cases, but offenders often need to seek help voluntarily.

Police say McCaslin has only been arrested a few times, but they have dealt with him frequently for minor disturbances, including public intoxication, that Waterville Police Deputy Chief Charles Rumsey calls “order-maintenance issues.”

In general, those can be noise, animal and harassment complaints or anything that requires police intervention, but don’t necessarily result in arrests or summons.

“They aren’t the very serious issues, but they are the types of issues that consume a lot of our time,” Rumsey said.

Occasionally, the habitual offenders are arrested and the behavior stops; at least while they are in jail. When they get out, their behavior continues.

Time to howl

In Augusta, Lt. Chris Massey works from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., a time when frequent flyers are most prevalent. Massey regularly deals with about two dozen habitual offenders. He estimates the average call takes about 30 minutes, and they add up quickly.

“It’s the repetitiveness that we have to deal with. Sometimes we deal with the same person two or three times in a shift. It’s not enough to get them arrested, but it’s enough that it requires a police response,” he said.

If police had that time back, officers could turn their attention to better things, he said.

“We could be more proactive,” he said. “We could be addressing the numerous speeding complaints we have in this town, or the car burglaries.”

Massey said there’s one frequent flyer in Augusta who has racked up more than 100 police incidents. She also calls police about three times a week with complaints of her own.

“She has some mental health problems, but doesn’t meet criteria for treatment,” he said.

Path of self-destruction

Rumsey said Waterville has about a dozen frequent flyers at the moment, but they don’t rise to the level of McCaslin, Rumsey said. “He is in a class of his own.”

McCaslin’s granddaughter, Holly McCaslin, said her grandfather is on a path of self-destruction.

“He’s beyond help at this point,” she said. “He just doesn’t care anymore.”

McCaslin is a veteran of the Vietnam War and a former railroad worker. During the past five years, two of his adult sons died. Since 2002, Winslow police say they have responded to more than 100 incidents involving McCaslin, mostly within the past two years.

On Aug. 2, McCaslin was arrested by Waterville police on criminal trespassing, assault and violating conditions of release, on Sherwin Street. The incident began when McCaslin, who was drunk, knocked on a stranger’s door and asked to use the telephone, Rumsey said.

McCaslin was allowed in, but was asked to leave soon after. He refused, and at some point fell and struck his head. The resident called 911 to have McCaslin’s injury checked out and removed from the premises.

Rumsey said McCaslin was uncooperative and refused treatment, so the ambulance crew left. As police tried to persuade McCaslin to leave the property, he fell down and struck his head a second time, and the ambulance was called back.

While he was being treated, McCaslin assaulted a paramedic. He was taken to the hospital then transferred to Kennebec County jail, where, as of Friday, he remained held on $500 cash bail. He is scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 25.

In July, McCaslin was sentenced to 14 days for a similar incident when he assaulted a firefighter who was treating him for injuries he sustained during a fight in Winslow. Police said he was heavily intoxicated at the time.

In November, McCaslin was a victim of crime when he was allegedly assaulted and kidnapped by two dinner guests at his home. He later escaped, but decided against pressing charges because the two were friends.

Holly McCaslin believes her grandfather has been traumatized by the death of his sons and he is delusional. They are now estranged, she said.

“I can’t even talk to him anymore. I can’t even surround myself with the type of lifestyle he’s living and the mind frame he’s in. He’s very negative and he’s in a dark place,” she said.

A case worker from the Department of Health and Human Services encouraged McCaslin to seek treatment but he declined, his granddaughter said.

“He refuses help,” she said. “And they refuse to force him into anything.”

Department of Health and Human Services spokesman John Martins couldn’t talk about the case because of confidentiality laws. In general terms, however, the department cannot force anybody into treatment for substances, unless it is part of bail conditions. In some cases, mental health problems can trigger mandatory treatment or services, he said.

Holly McCaslin said the Department of Health and Human Services told her McCaslin doesn’t pose a danger to himself, but she disagrees.

“He is a danger to himself and society, obviously. He’s getting arrested for assault at 71 — which is absolutely ridiculous — and they don’t force him into some kind of treatment,” she said. “I wish he would improve, but I don’t see it happening unless he is forced.”

Court help

Acting District Attorney Alan Kelley couldn’t talk about McCaslin’s pending case, but could discuss his prior convictions and sentencing. When McCaslin pleaded guilty for the June assault on a fireman, he was sentenced to 14 days in jail, Kelley said.

“He was sentenced to straight jail time. There was no probation or administrative release that prohibited him from using or possessing alcohol,” he said. “It was legally available, but under the circumstances of the case at the time, it was not deemed to be necessary. Now, we have 20-20 hindsight.”

Kelley said he has seen many habitual offenders. One tool the court has developed is the Maine Co-Occurring Disorders Court, which was founded in 2005 by Justices Nancy Mills and Evert Fowle, who was district attorney at the time. The specialty court gives some offenders with mental health and substance abuse issues the option to seek treatment and counseling in lieu of jail time, and closely supervises their progress. The program is voluntary.

“There’s a surprising number of cases that we deal with where the offenders have a combination of substance abuse and mental health issues,” Kelley said. “The court recognizes that the combination of those factors can result in criminal behavior and involvement in the criminal justice system, and you have to deal with both aspects of the problem, and hopefully by dealing with them you can keep people out of the criminal justice system.”

Rumsey said he has heard good things about the court.

“Some of the stories are very powerful,” he said. “Any evidence-based program that’s proven to reduce recidivism we have to support and consider. We know what doesn’t work. What doesn’t work is slapping people on the wrists and sending them back onto the streets where they continue to cause problems.”

Kelley said it would be inappropriate to discuss whether the specialty court would be an option for McCaslin in the future.

“Obviously, our hope is that whatever resolution we reach in this case will put an end to any recurrence of these types of events,” Kelley said.

Ben McCanna — 861-9239

[email protected]

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