WATERVILLE — Security camera footage from the Holy Cannoli bakery and restaurant on Main Street downtown captured a startling image early Sunday morning.

At 1:16 a.m., a person walking south on Main Street enters the grainy image and, without hesitation, kicks out a plate-glass window at the business and continues walking without missing a step.

Candace Savinelli, who founded Holy Cannoli more than two years ago, is not taking the criminal attack on her livelihood lightly. She and other business owners say vandalism downtown has gotten out of control, and their concerns are raising questions about adequate police coverage.

Savinelli confronted the City Council during its meeting Tuesday night to demand that officials do more to support the city’s overextended police department so they can prevent further vandalism.

“The city is not what it used to be. Stop pretending it’s great, because it’s not happening,” she told councilors. “Open your eyes and start getting your city back. I want my city back.”

Savinelli said replacing the window will cost her $550.

But Savinelli said it’s not about the window. It’s about making Waterville a better place for residents and businesses with less crime.

She presented the council a list of 32 smashed windows at 15 downtown businesses in recent years, which she gathered by talking to local business owners.

Brian Vigue, owner of Framemakers on Main Street downtown, agreed that several businesses have been hit hard by vandalism this year.

“It’s an epidemic,” he said.

A Fairfield man was charged with smashing a $5,000 window at Framemakers in April. Insurance covered the damage, but it cost Vigue a $500 deductible.

From Jan. 1 to Nov. 18, police investigated a total of 20 criminal mischief complaints on Main Street, according to Police Chief Joseph Massey. Of those, three involved broken windows at Waterville House of Pizza, Holy Cannoli and Framemakers. Other criminal mischief calls included food or feces smeared on shop windows, general acts of vandalism and some complaints of vandalism that turned out to be preexisting damage.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, Massey said his department uses the resources it has and “innovative strategies” in the downtown to prevent vandalism, including undercover officers and bicycle officers. Even so, he said downtown bars draw customers from outside Waterville, forcing officers to police “a much greater population than we’re geared up to police.”

“The reality is that we have some bars downtown, and when people get out at 1 o’clock and they’re intoxicated, they do stupid things,” Massey said. “And part of that is walking down the street and breaking windows. And all it takes is one second for them to look left and right, and don’t see a cruiser or police officer, and they kick the window and break it.”

The department seldom gets credit for the acts of criminal mischief it prevents, he said. He estimated the culprits have a 50-50 chance of getting away with it and acknowledged that “one window is too many.”

Councilwoman Dana Bushee, D-Ward 6, said the complaints are an indication the council should heed Massey’s request for an additional patrol officer. Failing to do so could drive businesses away, she said.

“We’re on the verge of some amazing things in Waterville, some amazing things in downtown Waterville, and we don’t want a few bad apples to ruin it for the rest of us,” she said.

But not all members of the council agree. Chairman Fred Stubbert, Ward 1, said that Waterville has four officers on duty at night.

“If this is happening with four officers on, we’re not doing a good job covering,” he said.

Massey said because of overlapping shifts, there are times when there are four officers on duty at night. He said that the department responds to 30,000 calls for service a year.

At one store alone, he said, police responded to 187 complaints of shoplifting, each taking about 45 minutes to investigate or up to two hours if an arrest was made.

“So we do a very good job. Could we use more folks? I’m willing. Let’s put them on. We’ll have better coverage,” he said.

Questioned by Bushee, Massey said he did request an additional full-time officer for the department, but the council did not provide funding for the new position.

Meanwhile, Councilman Erik Thomas said he hoped downtown business owners would show up to push for an extra officer when the council begins its budget process for the next fiscal year.

“There are some in this crowd who scream bloody murder whenever we talk about adding expenses to the city’s budget, because it means more tax dollars,” he said. “I understand there is a problem, but we all need to work together for solutions. We don’t need to be pointing fingers at each other.”

Evan Belanger — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @ebelanger

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