Maine’s largest city has a justified reputation as a welcoming, vibrant and vital place to live. But Portland’s appealing image has been undercut by a surge in robberies in the first half of 2015 compared with the same period last year.

City police believe that the jump in violent crime is related to drug use — one of the troubling but unsurprising signs that Maine is losing the war on substance abuse. And unless Gov. Paul LePage and the Legislature recognize the need to shore up dwindling addiction treatment resources, the impact on public safety and well-being in Portland, and the rest of Maine, will only get worse.

Portland had 52 robberies — in which someone commits theft by force or threat — reported through Monday (another two were reported Tuesday night). That’s up 44 percent over the 36 such incidents reported between Jan. 1 and July 20, 2014. Victims have been held up at knifepoint and gunpoint; police have stepped up patrols in the hardest-hit areas of the city.

What’s the reason for this crime spike? Deputy Police Chief Vern Malloch told reporters last month: “We firmly believe, based on interviews we have done (of convicted robbers), in the vast majority, over 90 percent, of the time — they’re feeding a drug habit.”

And it’s not limited to Portland. Augusta police, too, are finding most of their time and effort caught up in responding to drug-related crime. Central Maine sheriff’s offices are saying the same thing.

The experiences of police in Maine wouldn’t surprise federal criminologists, who have confirmed the link between being addicted to a drug and committing a criminal offense to get money to buy that drug. So have university-level experts in addiction.

What’s more, addiction puts the addict’s life at risk. A record 208 Mainers died of drug overdoses in 2014, up 18 percent over the previous year. The number of heroin deaths alone soared from 34 in 2013 to 57 in 2014.

Meanwhile, those trying to quit have fewer options to pay for treatment and fewer places to turn for treatment.

Faced with stricter MaineCare eligibility requirements, lower reimbursement rates for substance-abuse services and a cap on coverage for opiate addiction treatment, low-income, uninsured Mainers can’t afford the 30-day or longer outpatient programs that help halt the cycle of short-term detoxification and relapsed drug use.

The MaineCare cuts have been tough on service providers, too. Some programs have been forced to turn away uninsured patients, and one of Maine’s largest providers, Mercy Hospital’s Mercy Recovery Center in Westbrook, is scheduled to close next month, partly because fewer of its patients were covered by MaineCare.

There’s a price to be paid for not treating drug addiction. Anyone who lives, works, visits or pays taxes in Maine is paying it. So are law enforcement officials — not to mention addicts themselves and their loved ones. State policymakers should fund an expanded approach to fighting substance abuse, or be prepared to answer to the people whom it’s affecting the most directly.

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