Law enforcement officials and community leaders from the greater Springfield Massachusetts area met Monday to consider ways to deter crime. WAMC”s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports
Hampden County District Attorney Mark Mastroianni believes a policing model that employs strong community partnerships and focused deterrence can be a successful strategy to reduce violence in high crime areas of Springfield and Holyoke.
The DA , Monday, hosted a crime prevention strategy conference. It was attended by the Chiefs of Police from each of Hampden County’s cities and several suburban towns, other local law enforcement officials and a federal prosecutor. Others in attendance included the Mayor of Springfield and two of his top staff members, the Springfield School Superintendent, and community organizers.
The recently retired police chief of High Point North Carolina, James Fealy said his department had been nationally recognized for their success in implementing the strategy. Over the last decade, violent crime in High Point dropped 47 percent.
Fealy said his police department focused on deterring gang violence and drug dealing, specifically targeting so-called open air drug markets. He said the strategy resulted in the drug markets closing down almost overnight, not reopening and not moving somewhere else.
The approach to crime fighting goes beyond community policing, which is often superficial, to actively engaging members of the community as partners with police.
The retired chief acknowledges that a trust gap between police and minority communities can be difficult to bridge.
The president of the Springfield Chapter of the N A A C P Talbert Swan said he would welcome more dialogue between the police and the minority communities.
Participants in today’s conference admitted that innovation can be a tough sell at times with law enforcement traditionalists who often occupy command positions in local police departments.