Fire Displaces Five Pittsfield Residents
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A Thursday night fire caused nearly $10,000 worth of damage to a Worthington Street home.
Deputy Fire Chief Daniel Garner said the department received a report at 7:43 p.m. of a basement fire at 10-12 Worthington Street, located near the intersection of West Housatonic Street and Center Street. The fire displaced five residents from the two-family home but nobody was injured.
Garner estimates some $8,000 to $10,000 worth of damage.
On arrival, firefighters found fire encompassing a small room in the laundry area in the rear portion of the cellar.
"Engine 3 mounted an aggressive attack with a 1-3/4 inch handline, knocking down the main body of the fire within minutes," Garner wrote in a statement.
Firefighters from Engine 1 secured a water supply and assisted with a secondary attack line. Engine-5 searched the whole building to see if the blaze extended elsewhere — finding it had breached into a bedroom. The extending fire was extinguished. Tower 1 ventilated the structure and Engine 6 stood by on alert.
"The fire was under control within 45 minutes. City building, wiring, and health inspectors arrived. Eversource and Berkshire Gas shut down service to the building until repairs can be made," Garner wrote. "A total of five occupants were displaced by this blaze."
Garner says fire damage was confided to 25 percent of the basement and there was "moderate" smoke damage to the first and second floors. The cause of the fire is being investigated by Pittsfield Fire Department and the state fire marshal's office.
Pittsfield Police: Eight Robberies In Six Weeks
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city is averaging more than one armed robbery per week for the last month and a half.
Police say there have been eight armed robberies since November 23, 2015, seven of which are still unsolved.
The stores robbed include Angelina's on West Housatonic Street, an Empire Pizza delivery driver on Parker Street, the Gulf Station on Wahconah Street, Zuke's Variety on West Street, the Getty on Elm Street, Greylock Federal Credit Union on Upper North Street, the Salvation Army on Dalton Avenue, and Dawes Avenue Variety.
"With the exception of one case (robbery of Zuke's store on 12/10/15, in which 30-year-old Ivy Rogers of Pittsfield was arrested and charged, these are all active investigations," Police Chief Michael Wynn wrote in a release issued on Friday.
The chief says the staffing levels and call volume "do not allow for increased patrols or presence at this time" but that beat officers "are making it a point in between calls to be visible and conduct patrols in and around businesses."
Wynn said units within the patrol division would typically execute specialized patrols and have been given additional tasks related to solving the open robbery cases. Other units — such as detectives and investigators — have picked up additional duties aimed to prevent more robberies as well as investigating the cases.
While there are some commonalities in the robberies, it appears that most are separate investigations, Wynn wrote.
"Beyond race or sex, none of the descriptions of any of the suspects in the seven open cases closely matches any other case. In other words, they appear to have been committed by seven separate sets of suspects," Wynn wrote.
"That being said, eyewitness information in these cases has not been particularly strong. It does now appear that one of the seven cases in Pittsfield does appear to be linked to a similar robbery that occurred on Jan. 7, 2016 in South Hadley."
Some of the details included that most were places of business — with only one being a delivery driver; three involved knives and four involved handguns; there are six male suspects and one female suspect (one woman already arrested in the Zuke's Variety case); three were white males, two were black males, two (one male, one female) were of unknown race; three of them occurred during the 5 p.m. hour, two during the 7 p.m. hour, one during the 11 p.m. hour — a total six happening during the evening shift — and one at 2 in the afternoon; in four cases the victims were alone, in three there were multiple people present; no victims were injured; and the locations do not appear to be in any geographical pattern.
In wake of the rash of robberies, the Police Department issued the following tips to businesses and individuals:
- Increase vigilance when nearing closing hours (when customer traffic is low).
- Increase awareness of persons/vehicles loitering in the area, and call the police if suspicious.
- Increase staff at closing and evening hours so that there is not one employee alone during these times.
- Install surveillance and security systems.
- Do not do anything to place yourself in harm. Comply with all demands.
- Immediately close your business, and lock your doors. Call 911 before calling anyone else.
- Be the best witness you can be. After calling 911, write down details of the suspect. If there is more than one victim, do not share details amongst yourselves first.
Anyone with information regarding these cases is encouraged to call the Detective Bureau at 448-9705.
Pittsfield Police Restructures Command Staff
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Police Department is restructuring its command staff following the retirement of Capt. Patrick Barry.
Barry is a 27-year veteran of the force and announced his retirement from the department effective Jan. 3. He was the commander of the detective bureau for 15 years. He was briefly appointed acting chief at one point. Despite his retirement, he will remain in the profession as the chief of police in another community.
With his position open, the department is making a number of changes to top positions, which be be in place in the next few days.
"Captain Barry's departure led to an opportunity for internal discussion and some personnel assignment changes," Police Chief Michael Wynn wrote.
Capt. David Granger will take over command of the administrative services division as of Sunday, Jan. 10. He will assume responsibility for records, procurement, and human resources. He will also be the department's primary public information officer.
Granger has been with the department for 31 years with the last 10 being the commander of the uniformed patrol division. Prior to that, he worked as a supervisor in both the detective bureau and the the drug unit as well as the patrol supervisor.
Capt. John Mullin, the current commander of the administrative services division, will switch with Granger to become the division commander of the uniformed patrol division. He will be in charge of all patrol functions, traffic, K9, and special events. He also will be the department's liaison to the Traffic Commission, the Pittsfield Community Connect program, and the Elizabeth Freeman Center. He assumes the new job on Sunday, Jan. 10.
Mullin has been with the department for 29 years with the last eight being the commander of the administrative services division. Prior to that, he was shift commander and patrol supervisor in the uniformed patrol division.
Lt. Michael Grady will be interim commander of the detective bureau — filling the vacancy left by Barry's retirement. Grady has been with the department for 21 years and has most recently been the detective lieutenant — second in command — on the evening shift. He takes over the commander position on Sunday, Jan. 10. He assumes command of the detective bureau, drug unit, and crime scene services pending completion of a formal civil service promotional process.
"The department's senior commanders have spent between five and 15 years in their current assignments. While each division commander assignment places various requirements and demands on the commander, they all present significant challenges, time commitments, and personal investment. Captain Barry's departure has presented us with an opportunity to make some changes, mix things up, and interject some fresh perspective into our organization and operations," Wynn wrote.
"We wish Chief Barry well in his new endeavors, and I'm looking forward to the energy that these new assignments will bring to the Department."
Multiple Berkshire County Schools Subject Of Bomb Threat
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — Numerous schools were the target of bomb threats Thursday afternoon triggering responses from police and fire departments.
Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn said targets were identified in five communities but he did not reveal which ones.
"There was a timeline given in the call and an indication that the caller would make another call," Wynn said.
However, the time elapsed without incident and the individual never called back. Wynn said the caller making the threat was "scratchy" and "difficult to hear."
"We're working it an as active case," he said.
At least two of those targets were schools.
Both Lanesborough and Lenox have reported that just before 2 p.m. bomb threats were made on the schools. The call were made to Pittsfield Police dispatch.
"This afternoon at 1:49 p.m., Lanesborough Elementary School received a notice from the Lanesborough Police Department of a bomb threat identifying several targets throughout Berkshire County including Lanesborough Elementary School. School personnel conducted a thorough search of the building and its perimeter, joined by town police and fire officials. The chiefs of the Lanesborough Police and Fire Departments were on the scene immediately and determined that no students or students were in danger," wrote Lanesborough Principal Martin McEvoy.
Police Chief Timothy Sorrell said police and fire initiated its "bomb scare protocol" and ultimately found no threats. Lanesborough Police were notified of the threat around 1:45 and claimed the bomb would go off a half hour later.
Cheshire Elementary went into a "soft lockdown," according to a Facebook posting by the Cheshire Police Department because the threat mentioned the Cheshire post office, which is not far from the school.
"I want to reiterate that the Cheshire Elementary School was never mentioned in the bomb threat," state the post, presumably by Chief Timothy Garner. "Post office employees were notified and they made their contacts as well."
Once the time frame of the threat expired, the school went back to normal.
Two schools in Dalton were reportedly included in the threat but neither were evacuated unlike Lenox Memorial Middle and High School.
The Berkshire Eagle reported that Lenox Memorial Middle and High School was evacuated because of the threat. That too was found to be unsubstantiated by Lenox police and fire.
Principal Michael Knybel told the Berkshire Eagle: "In the interest of student and staff safety and security, we have sent students home early... Our first concern is the safety of our students and we will make every attempt to ensure this matter is thoroughly investigated and safety is restored."
Updated with information from Cheshire Police.
UPDATED: Greylock Federal Branch Robbed at Knifepoint
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Greylock Federal Credit Union branch near the Lanesborough border was robbed Tuesday night.
According to Greylock CEO John Bissell, the branch was robbed by knifepoint just before 6 p.m. on Wednesday night. The branch will remain closed until Monday, Jan. 4.
"At about 5:55 p.m. on December 30, the Lanesborough branch of Greylock Federal was robbed. The perpetrator showed a knife and demanded money. In these types of unfortunate circumstances, our number one concern is for the safety of our employees and our Members. We are gratified and relieved that no one was hurt," Bissell wrote.
"We are pleased that all employees reacted in exactly the way they are trained to do. We appreciate the prompt response of state and local law enforcement and we are cooperating fully with the investigation being conducted by the Pittsfield Police Department. The Lanesborough branch will remain closed on December 31, and will reopen Monday, January 4."
The robbery apparently took place just minutes before the regular closing time. The office is located at 1664 North St. and is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays.
On Thursday Police released photos of the suspect and is asking for help identifying him. The suspect is decribed as a black male, approximately 5'10" tall, around 200 lbs. and between the ages of 25 and 30. He walked from Lakeview Street, entered the bank, displayed a knife, demanded money and then exited back toward Lakeview Street.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Detective Bureay at 413-448-9705 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.