Early a.m. Laconia police operation nets 20 wanted for drug-related crimes

LACONIA — City police, with the assistance of officers from Gilford, arrested 18 people in Laconia and two in Gilford for unspecified drug crimes early Thursday morning.

Det. Sgt. Dennis Ashley said in a written media statement that police began their "warrant sweep" on 25 suspects with more than 32 active warrants. He said of the 20 that were arrested, most of them were sleeping and all of the arrests were without incident meaning that no one was injured and no property as damaged.

He said additional arrests are expected.

The "round up" comes after six months of "drug related investigations" by city police. Ashley said it included numerous hours of undercover surveillance and "controlled buys" to compile the evidence used to support probable cause.

A "controlled buy" typically uses confidential informants to buy drugs from known drug dealers.

Since none of the charges against the 20 people were provided yesterday by police, no names will be published at this time by The Daily Sun.

A corrections official said at 3 p.m. no one from Laconia or Gilford was brought to the Belknap County House of Corrections yesterday as a new arrest although a few of addresses provided by police indicate people who are already incarcerated were included. This means that most of those arrested were likely released on personal recognizance bail and given a future court day.

'Free the NIpple' protestors look to target Laconia after Hampton Beach

LACONIA — One of the lead organizers of the Free the Nipple N.H. movement said yesterday the grassroots organization will come to a beach in Laconia some time after their planned August 23 demonstration at Hampton Beach.

Gilford resident Heidi Lilley said yesterday that Laconia is being targeted because, to the best of her knowledge, it is the only community in the state that expressly bans the baring of female nipples.

"(The ordinance) is inconsistent with state law and we're trying to change that," Lilley said yesterday.

Free the Nipple N.H. is a Facebook-centered campaign that is working to equalize the rights of men and women and advocate for the de-sexualizing of the female breast. The campaign originally stemmed from push back against public breast-feeding but in 2014 was expanded into a movement for breast equality with the production of the documentary film "Free the Nipple".

"We're not asking to go topless in restaurants and stores. We're not asking to go to those places," Lilley said. "We just want to go topless where men can go topless and that's primarily the beach."

Lilley said the date and place of Free the Nipple N.H.'s demonstration has not been determined and she's not even sure it will happen this year.

"We have to get through Hampton first," she said. "But we're not backing down."

Laconia's ordinance against nudity, which includes the "female breast with less than a fully opaque covering of any part of the nipple" stems from the rowdiness, nudity and the "show-us-yours" screaming of bystanders to female rally-goers in the city during the annual Motorcycle Week. It was passed in 1998.

City Councilor Henry Lipman said that in his opinion the ordinance was initially passed more to protect women from the continual onslaught of people screaming obscenities at them than for public morality purposes.

Lilley, who is native to central New Hampshire and who in years past has been to many Motorcycle Week rallies, said that during the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s she supported the ordinance because it was intimidating for women during those times. She said she thinks the Motorcycle Week has aged and become much calmer in the past 20 years and doesn't think there is a continued need for it.

City Councilor Brenda Baer said yesterday that the ordinance is part of the reason why Laconia Motorcycle Week is much tamer than it was in its heyday.

"Other than that, as a woman of my age it's probably something I'd never consider," she said with a laugh.

She said in theory the law against females baring their breasts at the beach is discriminatory but she agrees with it because of the mores of women in her generation.

"I wouldn't arrest them. I really wouldn't," she said.

Both her and Councilor Ava Doyle agreed that some men should not be allowed to go topless at the beach or anywhere else in public.

"I'm offended when I see some man walking shirtless down the street," Doyle said.

Laconia Police Capt. Bill Clary, responding to a Right to Know request about the number of citations issued under the ordinance, said that in 2010 eight people were cited, seven in 2011, seven in 2012, 13 in 2014 and two so far this year. He also noted that the statistics don't include the sex of the offender so, for example, the citations could include men who were cited for public urination.

Clary also noted that the ordinance allows police to cite people for encouraging others to display their genitalia or breasts, which goes to the heart of why most city councilors who were reached said it was passed in the first place.

Clary said city police have never arrested or cited a breast-feeding woman.

Since Laconia's ordinance exceeds state law, which doesn't prohibit the baring of female breasts in public, police can only fine offenders $250 for a first offense going up to $1,000 for a third offense.

The Free the Nipple N.H. movement in New Hampshire has targeted Hampton Beach for it's first campaign which has led to public outcries largely from area residents who say Hampton Beach has continually marketed itself as a family-friendly community and topless sunbathing flies in the face of that.

Many have reached out to Sen. Nancy Stiles, R-Hampton to change the state law to one that would ban women going topless and displaying the nipple portion of their breasts in public.

Stiles told the Concord Monitor that she thinks there are more pressing issues for the state Senate to address but said she has heard from a number of her constituents about this and is talking to other state senators about a new law.

Sen. Andrew Hosmer, D-Laconia said yesterday that the "(Legislature's) energy should be focused on the state budget and the heroin crisis in my District (7) and the state."

"Until I learn more, I'm not inclined to support any bill," Hosmer said.

Rain leaves 1 ft. of water at LRGH ER door

LACONIA — Fire Chief Ken Erickson said Tuesday night's downpour caused street flooding in the downtown and Union Avenue areas of the city so severe that manhole covers were floating on Union Avenue and nearly 1 foot of water flooded the entrance to the emergency room of the Lakes Region General Hospital.

Spokeswoman Sandy Marshall said the emergency room itself was not flooded but the area around the ambulance entrance was and ambulances were redirected to a nearby door for the duration of the storm. She said there was no permanent damage.

Erickson said Lakeport Dam records showed the city received 3.6-inches of rain, and the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine, confirmed Laconia received 2.5-inches of rain between 6 and 8 p.m.

"It was pretty amazing to drive through the Main Street area and see one- to two-feet of water on all the streets," he said.

He said there were vehicles stranded on Court Street and city police logs indicate that during that two-hour period there were a few calls in the Academy, Fair and Court Street section of the city for road hazards and stranded vehicles.

It appeared that the areas of the city most affected were downtown to the Gilford town line along Union Avenue. While much of the rest of the state received heavy rain, the particular storm cell that dumped on Laconia seemed centered only on Laconia. Erickson said there was almost no rain in the Weirs Beach section of the city.

Public Works crews had the drains cleared, and by 9 p.m. most of the rain had stopped and most of the storm drains had cleared.



(Erosion on Avery Hill) Torrential rains tore through the partially constructed sidewalk on Avery Street Tuesday night during a two-hour deluge that dumped 3.6 inches of water on the city. The street is being reconstructed as part of one of the city's summer road construction plan. The work is being performed by Busby Construction.