AUGUSTA — Matthew Pouliot’s pretty sure he’s never been a crime victim in 28 years of living in the city. He did lose a pair of sunglasses once, but he thinks he just didn’t remember where he put them.

So it surprised him that Augusta, part of which he represents in the Maine House of Representatives, recently showed up atop an online list of the “most dangerous places in Maine.”

“I think that, having lived in Augusta my whole life, I’ve always felt really safe,” the Republican said.

The list from Movoto, a real estate brokerage website, has already sparked a dialogue about public safety on social media in Maine since its release on Tuesday, even though its methodology is questioned by an expert.

Augusta was followed by Biddeford, Bangor, Waterville, Skowhegan, Portland, Sanford, Auburn, South Portland and Lewiston.

Movoto used crime data from 2013 collected by the FBI to calculate the number of crimes relative to population in 56 Maine municipalities with 5,000 or more residents. Then, it weighed violent crimes, murders and property crimes to make up a large portion of each place’s score.


Augusta was dinged for having the highest number of property crimes per person in Maine, with Skowhegan trailing it by a spot. Waterville’s 43 violent crimes per capita were good for fourth-highest in the state, with Portland just behind it.

But such a list demands context: Maine is a low-crime state that was called the country’s most peaceful in 2012 by the Institute for Economics and Peace, which gave the state high marks for low levels of violent crime, incarceration and police employees.

“The thing that needs to be stressed is that Maine still is, has been and continues to be one of the safest states in the country,” said Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.

Movoto’s methodology can be questioned. Carolyn Ball, a public policy and management professor at the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School of Public Service in Portland, said more crimes may be reported in places where confidence in a police department is high. Also, she said it’s probably not appropriate to include murders among the list of violent crimes since there are so few in Maine.

Of the 25 homicides reported here in 2013, only three were between strangers and 12 were domestic violence related, according to data from the public safety department. Because of that, Ball said people moving from one Maine community to another shouldn’t fear a random act of violence.

“It’s more likely that if you’re moving from somewhere else, it’s the person you’re moving with,” she said, “so it has nothing to do with Augusta or Waterville or Portland or Lewiston.”


Deputy Chief Jared Mills of the Augusta Police Department said it’s clear that Augusta has a crime problem, with drugs as a key common denomiator. But he said it’s also a unique environment, where the resident population of 19,000 swells because of people who come to the city for work or services.

“We just have to take the article for what it is,” Mills said. “The article is taking data based on population and Augusta’s a very tricky place.”

Still, Mills said Augusta is taking the ranking seriously.

Waterville City Manager Mike Roy’s take was different. He called the list “a feeble attempt at someone trying to get attention for whatever it is they’re promoting.”

“That’s my view,” Roy said, “and the best thing we can do is ignore it and move on.”

Movoto spokesman Nick Johnson said safety data isn’t easily available to home buyers, so the list was intended to be an “easy-to-digest report” for them. He said many of the company’s lists spur people to debate the merits of the rankings and “weigh in on the overall big picture together.”


But Ball, the USM professor, urged people to put it in perspective.

“I would remind them that even though these are the communities at the top,” she said, “it is a safe place to be in any of these communities.”

Michael Shepherd — 370-7652

[email protected]

Twitter: @mikeshepherdme

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.