To combat crime a number of police departments across the county are using a counterinsurgency strategy similar to what US troops used in Iraq. The tactics are different, but the idea is to build community support and trust and take away the safe havens for the gangs and drug dealers. Springfield Massachusetts is one city that has seen success with the strategy. WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.
A special police unit, consisting of a police sergeant and three uniformed officers, was assigned seven months ago to what was dubbed “ Operation B.A.D.G.E.” in the area known as “ The X” in Springfield’s Forest Park Neighborhood. Police officials, at the time, dubbed the mixed commercial-residential area as a perennial crime hot spot.
Michael Valade, who works at a video game store in “ The X” and lives in the neighborhood says he’s noticed a difference.
The police assigned to the B.A.D.G.E. unit, which stands for Business and Domicile Geographic Enforcement patrol on foot and bicycles in an area that covers just a few city blocks. They visit with business owners and attend the regular meetings of neighborhood civic associations.
Valade says as a result of the police officers becoming involved with the community, people in the neighborhood have become more trusting of the police and more willing to share information.
Springfield police released data recently that purports to show a drop in the neighborhood’s crime rate. The B.A.D.G.E. unit has been responsible for more than 200 arrests and have conducted more than 200 field interviews, according to Sergeant John Delaney, the executive aide to the Springfield Police Commissioner.
The unit is also focused on so-called quality of life concerns.
In announcing the formation of the special unit, earlier this year, Springfield Police Commissioner William Fitchet said it differed from the temporary show of force, which was the traditional police response to a troubled area.
Ralph Fiore, who owns a carpet and flooring store in “ The X” says he hopes the improvements in the neighborhood will be permanent.
The B.A.D.G.E. unit is modeled after a similar initiative in another part of Springfield, the North End. It began two years ago, as a joint operation of the Springfield Police and Massachusetts State Police centered on just an 8 block area with a high crime rate. Officials credit the program for a 68% overall reduction in crime in the neighborhood.
A Springfield police official said the program would be introduced in more high crime neighborhoods as the police department budget and staffing levels permit.