How Well-Being Checks Are Handled Locally

By Jayna Smith

Police in southern Maine say the woman whose body was found at her home in Wells earlier this month had been dead for over two years.  Officers made many well-being checks at the request of neighbors, but until the day her body was discovered, had never entered the home.  It was only after foreclosure was imminent due to unpaid property taxes that officers entered to look for clues as to her whereabouts. 

What is the likelihood of this type of incident occurring in the Calais or Baileville area?  Could one’s death really go unnoticed for days or months, or, as in the case of the woman from Wells, even years? 

Calais Police Chief Dave Randall and Baileyville Police Chief Bob Fitzsimmons recently spoke to The Calais Advertiser to explain the process of well-being checks within their departments. 

In 2015, Baileyville Police Department responded to 38 well-being requests, while Calais Police Department responded to nearly twice that with 68.  “Those types of calls usually come from neighbors or family members who are concerned that they haven’t seen or heard from a friend or loved one,” Calais Police Chief Dave Randall said.

Neither department has an actual written policy on well-being checks in place for the officers to follow.  “I trust the good common sense of our officers to do everything they can to handle these situations,” Chief Randall stated.

Both police chiefs agree that even though a well-being check policy has not been implemented, officers in each department follow the same procedure.  “Generally what happens after a well-being check that has not led to a satisfactory answer, more follow up is done,” Chief Fitzsimmons said. 

“We check with family, neighbors, post office, etc., to see if the person is just out of town,” he said. This of course is after the responding officer looks for any signs of activity through the window or any obvious signs of foul play. 

It is when no leads have been obtained as to the whereabouts of the person in question when entry into the residence by the police occurs.  “We would make entry causing as little damage as possible, if a neighbor or family member did not have a key,” Chief Fitzsimmons said. 

Chief Fitzsimmons has also gone a step further to keep older adults in his town safe.  Six residents make use of his department’s Good Morning Program, and there’s always room for more.  “This program is designed for folks who live alone, and they call the police department in the morning by 10:00 to let me know everything is ok,” he explained.

Downeast EMS assists Baileyville Police Department with this program.  On the weekends, these six people call Downeast EMS to check in with them.  “If we don’t hear from them by 10:00, we call them,” Chief Fizsimmons said.  “If we don’t get an answer, we make a house call.  At that time, if we don’t get an answer at the door, we start the process already mentioned of checking to see if the person it out of town.”

Chief Fitzsimmons explained that he implemented the Good Morning Program after having a call within his own department where the body of a woman who had died about a week prior had been discovered.  He also learned of similar programs within various agencies.

“The program has no cost associated with it.  The residents call and either I answer or they leave a message.  I know them all so when we do get a chance to chat, it makes my day,” Chief Fitzsimmons said.  “We have even been known to deliver some milk on a cold winter’s morning so they don’t have to go out on the roads. It’s what we do.”

 

To reach either police department in an emergency, call 911.  For NON-EMERGENCIES, Calais Police Department can be reached by calling 454-2752 and Baileyville Police Department can be reached by calling 427-6203.