SKOWHEGAN — Police say they are concerned that a local homeless shelter has contributed to a recent uptick in crime, but the shelter’s director said the homeless population is being targeted unfairly, given that similar crimes take place in the community without the same level of scrutiny.

“They’re just people,” said the Rev. Richard Berry, pastor of Trinity Men’s Shelter and the Trinity Evangelical Free Church. “There are people getting arrested in every town around here for the same things. But if that person is from the homeless shelter, other people view it as some sort of criminal element that’s sneaking up on us. It’s really sad.”

Berry’s remarks Tuesday came on the heels of a news release from the Skowhegan Police Department describing a burglary investigation in which the suspect is believed to have been staying at the homeless shelter recently, and a report of a fight that happened Tuesday morning when a resident allegedly attacked a shelter employee.

Last week a shelter resident was arrested for allegedly breaking into a nearby church building in an attempt to steal food, and the week before that another resident was arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting a female family member.

Detective Sgt. Josh King said that in recent months the Police Department has spent a “disproportionate amount” of its resources responding to incidents connected to people who stay at the shelter.

“Most days we deal with somebody from the homeless shelter,” King said. “It might not always be serious crimes, but almost every day we’re dealing with them in some capacity.”

Now police are seeking help in looking for Anthony Takacs, 65, a recent resident of the shelter at 12 McClellan St., in connection with the burglary of Splash Time and Pinwheel Quilting, two local businesses that were broken into Tuesday, according to a news release from the department.

Money and several quilts were stolen. Takacs has a criminal history in Alaska, Wyoming, Colorado and Washington. Police also believe he is trying to leave Maine and are asking for the public’s help in locating him.

In the same news release Tuesday, police also described a fight that took place Tuesday at the shelter, resulting in the arrest of Cristopher Rivera, 23, of Arkansas. Rivera, also a shelter resident, was charged with assault and criminal mischief.

Berry, the shelter pastor, said the fight Tuesday did not result in any injuries and that Rivera was a young man who had come to the shelter recently. As the weather gets colder, he said, the shelter has seen a recent influx in people seeking beds.

“(Fights) happen sometimes at homeless shelters,” Berry said. “You’re getting people from everywhere. A lot of them are scared; they’re upset. They’re frustrated, and sometimes it happens. It’s just part of what we do. You could go six months and see nothing happen or go two weeks and see half a dozen things.”

For the most part, King said, shelter residents don’t cause a lot of problems, and that more often than not crimes occur in the community rather than at the shelter itself.

“A lot of them need help, and they’re (at the shelter) for a reason,” King said. “A lot of times we deal with them because people don’t know how to take them or that kind of thing. But in the last couple months, there has certainly been an uptick in serious crimes that actually require follow-up and investigation.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm


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