PORTLAND, Maine — The Portland Police Department says since Jan. 1, they have seen a “concerning” increase in OUI arrests and crashes. Compared to January through April in 2019 and 2020, the number of alcohol and drug-related cases has doubled, from 49 and 41, respectively, to 84.
Portland police say of the 84 arrests so far this year, 19 have involved crashes.
“Impaired driving is a serious public safety concern,” Chief Frank Clark said in a release. “As COVID restrictions ease and people seek to return to some sense of normalcy, let’s please do so responsibly.”
Eighty-four percent of the arrests have been alcohol-related, while 6 percent involved opioids, 4 percent involved marijuana, and 6 percent are categorized as “other.”
In a press conference about their report Thursday morning, Clark said in some of the alcohol-related OUIs, the blood alcohol content (BAC) ranged from three to four times the legal limit in Maine.
"The driver's license is not a right. It's a privilege," Clark said.
FULL PRESS CONFERENCE ON PORTLAND MAINE OUI NUMBERS
Portland police remind people that while recreational marijuana is legal and is becoming more prevalent, it is still illegal to drive while high.
“PPD has a certified drug recognition expert (DRE) on staff and recently sent 10 officers to ARIDE training--or Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement,” police said in a release. “These supplemental training courses help our officers recognize the signs of impairment from several kinds of drugs, any of which can result in OUI charges. “
“As always, we seek the public’s voluntary compliance with Maine law,” Clark continued. “At the same time, our officers are trained to detect signs of impairment and will take enforcement action when necessary in order to reduce crashes, injuries or worse.”
Last month, the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of Chief Medical Examiner released Maine drug overdose data for February 2021, which drew attention to the continued devastation the opioid epidemic is causing in the state.
The report, compiled by Dr. Marcella Sorg of the University of Maine's Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, showed that 45 deaths were caused by drugs in February of 2021. Of those, 27 are confirmed drug deaths and 18 are suspected drug deaths. The most frequent cause of death in these cases is non-pharmaceutical fentanyl.
In response to the report, Attorney General Aaron M. Frey said, “February’s numbers are an important reminder of the opioid crisis’s continued grip on our state and the country."
The January 2021 report showed 58 drug-related deaths in Maine.
The report estimated that 503 people in Maine died from drug overdoses in 2020, which represents a 25 percent increase from 2019.
Frey has said combatting drug deaths continues to be a priority of the Office of the Attorney General.
This story will be updated.