SKOWHEGAN — The long arm of Somerset County law enforcement and probation officers is reaching out for bail and probation checks, warrant arrests and keeping track of registered sex offenders.

Operation Long Arm is a three-phase program that began this week with community outreach, Skowhegan Police Chief Ted Blais told the Skowhegan Board of Selectmen on Tuesday.

The second phase will include multi-jurisdictional teams of four to six officers in Pittsfield, Fairfield, Madison and Skowhegan conducting visits in those towns. The operation’s final phase will include teams in outlying areas of Somerset County.

“I would call it a check to say hello and let folks know we’re keeping track of them,” he said.

Blais said federal, state, county and local law enforcement agencies will participate in the initiative. He said the operation is based on other successful programs targeting specific areas elsewhere in Maine.

Augusta recently began a similar program, Project Hot Spot, that was modeled on a program that has had success in Lewiston, Augusta’s Deputy Chief Jared Mills said last month.

In the first phase in April, Augusta officers fanned out across high-crime areas of the city to let both criminals and law-abiding residents know “we’re here, we’re coming, and we’re not going away,” Mills said.

Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster said Wednesday that “the genesis of the initiative” in Somerset County was with probation officers, a division of the state Department of Corrections. He said the sheriff’s department has been working with other law enforcement agencies to achieve the maximum effect of the operation.

“The sheriff’s office has been integrally involved with the planning,” Lancaster said. “All police agencies in the county are involved.”

Lancaster said the operation accomplishes two things. It ensures the public that law enforcement is checking people who are on probation and have been released back into the communities.

“It also re-enforces with the probationers that their agreement with the court is serious and provides a motivation for the person to voluntarily comply,” the sheriff said.

Operation Long Arm will begin as a one-day sweep with as many as 60 state, federal, county, local and state authorities following up on weeks of investigation and research. The initiative then could expand to more visits this summer as the success of the program becomes known, Blais said.

“It depends on so many things,” Blais said. “How many officers are going to be available and how many people we’ll have to go check on. Could we piece that all into one day? Maybe. Could it spread out a little more? Yes. It all depends on the date we’re going to get this together, who’s working and who’s on patrol, who’s working detective.”

Blais said some added costs could be associated with the operation, such as overtime for patrol officers or deputies and calling up reserve officers, but it’s not going to be a “giant added cost” for communities.

Blais said federal probation officers and U.S. marshals might be involved in the local program, looking for probationers and registered sex offenders to make sure they are living where they say they are living.

“It’s going to be for people who are on probation, people who are on conditions of release and people who have warrants that we haven’t caught up to in a while. There’s a lot of people with warrants out on them,” he said.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

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Twitter: @Doug_Harlow