Bangor police say trash, homeless camps are an issue on railroad property

BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - Trash is becoming a major problem in homeless camps along the Penobscot River.

"It's pretty depressing that this property is so close to the river and yet it looks like this, and it's looked like this for years, and it's going to continue to look like this until we can get some more help from them in cleaning it up."

Bangor Police Sergeant Wade Betters says this has been a problem for years, and it's growing.

The trash and debris and abandoned camping gear and clothing, they're all down here rotting into the ground. As you can see, it's very close by the Penobscot River, and we'd like to see it doesn't happen, we hope it doesn't, but we know that trash and debris and we know human waste ends up in the river."

He says this presents multiple issues.

"One of the biggest problems we have is accessibility for when things turn violent and when police intervention becomes necessary. It's very difficult for a police officer to get down here quickly or EMS services when someone gets hurt or is a victim of a crime."

He says a lot of the items of trash down here are things that have been donated to the homeless, like back packs and sleeping bags. As Community Services Manager for the city, Rindy Fogler says the handouts may be hurting more than they're helping.

"It's done with the best intentions, but we're actually making it easier for folks to stay outside by providing all of these materials. It's not forcing them to take advantage of the resources that would actually get them off the streets and allow us to clean this stuff up. We're not here to remove anyone from this property. We're here just to provide outreach to get an idea of how much filth is here and what the job would entail should we get some help to clean it up."

When it comes to who is actually responsible for the trash, Betters says it's on the land owner, Pan Am Railways.

"Ultimately, the trash you see, the mess down here, it's all on railroad property, and unfortunately we've not had success gaining cooperation from the railroad to get it cleaned up."

Betters says the railroad police, which are a separate, federally run entity, have been cooperative with issues in the past.

"And to be quite honest, the railroad, as my personal knowledge goes, they have been unwilling to clean this up. We're not looking for perfection. We're just looking for them to be a good neighbor."

We have reached out to Pan Am Railways but have not heard back from them.