Officials in Springfield Massachusetts are implementing a plan to address what they say is a public safety perception problem in the city’s downtown. It is important to existing business owners and to a possible future big business—a resort casino.
There will be high visibility walking and bike patrols in downtown Springfield, both in the daytime and during the evening, with flexible deployments based on events and crime data. Commissioner William Fitchet said there will also be targeted traffic enforcement, prostitution stings and spot checks of bars and restaurants for liquor license violations.
Donald Courtemanche, Executive Director of the Springfield Business Improvement District said the police can do much to help businesses that depend on foot traffic.
There is very little violent crime in downtown Springfield, according to police. Most crimes involve such things as shoplifting or automobile break-ins. The occasional outbursts of violence centered around the bars and nightclubs in the Entertainment District have left the impression that downtown Springfield is not safe.
Kevin Kennedy, Chief Development Officer for the City of Springfield, said officials started working on a downtown security plan about a year ago. In addition to the new police deployments, brighter lighting is being installed along Main Street and on other busy pedestrian thoroughfares.
Under terms of the casino development agreement between MGM Resorts and the city, MGM will fund a $1.4 million downtown public safety initiative, if it wins the competition for the lone casino license in western Massachusetts. MGM officials say public safety and the perception of downtown Springfield is key to drawing people from throughout the region to the casino
To pay for the downtown security plan that is being put in place now Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno worked out a deal with the Springfield Parking Authority, which has agreed to pay the city up to $300,000 a year.
Police Commissioner Fitchet said because the parking authority is paying for the extra police details downtown it allows him to redirect money in the police budget.
Springfield City Councilor Melvin Edwards said the city needs more police in its high-crime neighborhoods.
Springfield has recorded 10 homicides so far this year. Three people were shot dead in the past month. None of the murders occurred in the city’s downtown.