SANFORD, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- A Sanford woman hung signs Tuesday on her property telling people in her neighborhood to stop selling, buying, or using heroin because of the proximity to an elementary school.
Kari Zielke said she believes people in her neighborhood are dealing and using drugs in a vacant home across the street from her. They live about 100 feet from Lafayette Elementary School, which her daughter attends.
Under Maine law, schools, parks, and playgrounds are areas recognized as "drug free safe zones." A person arrested for a crime committed within 1000 feet of those areas often faces increased penalties.
Zielke said the house across the street gets about 50 to 75 visitors a day.
Mark Clark, who lives adjacent to the vacant home, also noticed.
"There’s more people going in and out of there than 7-Eleven," he said.
Zielke outfitted her home with security cameras facing the street, capturing the activity she believes is related to drugs.
She said people throw their used needles on the sidewalk in front of her home and on her porch. She said a boy once stepped on a discarded needle.
”My ‘mom rage’ took over and I was so upset. No kid should have to worry about stepping on needles on their way to and from school," said Zielke.
Sanford Police Chief Tom Connolly said the area is known to have drug activity, and the officers frequently patrol. He said committing a drug crime in one of these safe zones can increase the penalties – even bringing a misdemeanor up to a felony.
”It’s pretty steep. You are putting yourself in a situation where you could go to jail for a long time,” said Connolly. ”I can’t even imagine if I had kids going out on my front porch and finding used needles."
Zielke said she gives her footage to the police department. Chief Connolly said it can take a lot of time and resources for a department to build a case and establish probable cause for searching a residence.
"While we may also know that it is probably a drug deal, it doesn't make it sufficient for us to stop them and search them," said Connolly.
Zielke is worried for her five kids, and plans to hold a "sit-in" in her neighborhood to let any potential users or sellers know that their activities are not welcome.
”There’s an expectation that schools and playgrounds are the safest place for a child, and when people don’t respect that, that’s extremely frustrating," said Zielke.