The page was created by Jennifer Breen Kirsch, a local attorney who's become active in crime prevention after her parents' home was broken into days after Christmas. Kirsch, working with the city and local organizations, has spearheaded the community watch group.
The community effort has been prompted by a wave of break-ins that came to public attention last fall after a number of break-ins in Clarksburg and Stamford, Vt. A suspect believed to be the culprit in the majority of them — and dozens of others through Berkshire and Bennington (Vt.) County — was arrested and charged. However, several of those burglaries have not be resolved and numerous others have occurred in Williamstown, North Adams, Adams and Cheshire over recent months.
North Adams held a community meeting on Thursday night at City Hall to discuss crime and neighborhood action to prevent it.
The new Facebook page states:
Please join the new Neighborhood Crime Watch Group sponsored by Mayor Dick Alcombright, the NAPD through Officer Mark Bailey and Commissioner E. John Morocco, community representative Jenn Kirsch, and the NBCC, through Ashley Benson and Al Bashevkin. To find out more, please post questions and we will quickly reply. Our goal is to reduce the crime rate, as a community, in conjunction with City Hall and the NAPD. We need volunteers and neighborhood captains to run meetings. If you are interested, Officer Bailey, along with members of the team, will conduct a meeting for you and your neighbors, at your home. Let's unite under this common goal to reduce crime in our city!
By: Staff Reports On: 11:39PM / Friday February 05, 2010
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city is hosting a community meeting on Thursday, Feb. 11, at 6 p.m. at City Hall to discuss neighborhood safety and crime watches. Mayor Richard Alcombright, whose home was burglarized last spring, talked a little about the issue at Friday's Northern Berkshire Community Coaliton forum.
The call for a crime watch is prompted by a spike in burglaries in the city and other parts of Berkshire County and Southern Vermont. The first indication of a rise in the area began last fall with a series of break-ins, many of which police say are linked to a Pittsfield man, Stefan Veremko. More recently, homes in North Adams, Adams, Cheshire and Williamstown have been broken into, including the parents of Jennifer Breen Kirsch.
Kirsch, a former Middlesex prosecutor, criticized the handling of the case and is now spearheading efforts to develop local crime watches.
"I think it's a bold attempt. We're going to bring the city, we're going to bring the private citizen, the Community Coalition together and, hopefully, folks will show up and consider the neighborhood watch as a solution to stopping crime in their neighborhoods," said Alan Bashevkin, executive director of the coalition, of next week's meeting.
Public Safety Commissioner E. John Morocco urged residents to contact the police about starting a neighborhood watch.
"Call us up. We'll show you [how] and we'll guide you through it," he said. "And we won't just leave. We'll show up every month at your meeting. ... But it takes a neighborhood to start a neighborhood watch program it takes somebody to step forward and say 'we're going to do this' and get the neighbors to show up."
In any case, said Morocco, "don't leave your car unlocked, don't leave your house unsecured."
Breaking and enterings, or B&Es, happen anytime, he said. "The recent rash were more bold, daytime, but they happen all times of day and night."
The commissioner said about 85 to 90 percent of all crimes - domestic violence, child abuse, larceny - here and nationwide can be attributed to substance abuse.
Liz Shiner of the Elizabeth Freeman Center, said domestic violence has increased and that the county's rate for retraining orders is 40 percent above the statewide rate. The center would be willing to teach neighborhood crime watches how to deal with domestic violence, she said.
Morocco shared some interesting information about how Veremko allegedly plotted the numerous burglaries across the county and into Vermont over the past year.
According to Morocco, Veremko kept a notebook with a list of likely houses. He'd case the house and look up the phone numbers, call and track when they weren't home. "He'd do his homework," said Morocco. "He was probably the most sophisticated burlglar I've ever seen."
Veremko is being held on $250,000 bail after being arraigned on numerous charges relating to the break-ins.
By: Staff Reports On: 07:54PM / Monday February 01, 2010
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Here's a name familiar to many in Clarksburg and Stamford — Stefan Veremko.
Veremko was arraigned in Berkshire Superior Court on Monday afternoon multiple charges related to numerous burglaries across the county between last June 1 and Nov. 19, 2009. The Pittsfield man is suspected in some of the break-ins and attempted break-ins in both Clarksburg and Stamford this past fall. He's also facing charges in the Bennington, Vt., area.
The 28-year-old had not-guilty pleas entered on his behalf for 15 counts of breaking and entering in the daytime with intent to commit a felony; 14 counts of larceny in building; 11 counts of malicious destruction of property worth more than $250; 15 counts of receiving stolen property worth more than $250 and single counts each of possesion of ammunition without a firearms identification card, cruelty to animals and being a common and notorious thief (we'll have to look that one up).
Judge John A. Agostini ordered that he be held at the Berkshire County House of Correction on $25,000 cash or $250,000 surety bail. He also was ordered to stay away from the many victims, as well as to have no contact with them if he posts bail.
As most will remember, Veremko was arrested after an off-duty probation officer said he saw him fleeing a building in Lenox with a full pillow case. Veremko allegedly stopped and switched license plates but the officer noted the number and he was arrested at his Dartmouth Street residence.
The investigation was conducted by members of the Lenox, Pittsfield, Dalton, Lanesborough, Stockbridge, West Stockbridge, Williamstown and Clarksburg police departments and state troopers assigned to the Lee barracks.
By: Stamford/Clarksburg Crime Watch On: 01:52PM / Monday January 11, 2010
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — The temporary committee of the Stamford/Clarksburg Community Watch has decided to postpone the next meeting to Feb. 20, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. This will allow our team to go over the information that is brought back from the Crime Watch Meeting in Washington, D.C., at the end of this month. We are postponing this meeting so that the next big meeting can be full of informative handouts that will help make this Crime Watch group a success.
By: Staff Reports On: 04:59PM / Thursday December 31, 2009
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — A Cobbleview Road residence was broken into late Wednesday afternoon as police were investigating an earlier burglary on the same road.
Police were at the first residence at about 5 p.m. when a neighbor reported the motion lights coming on at another Cobbleview Road home. As officers approached the residence, they heard what sounded like a person running from the area into the woods. A search was conducted by second-shift officers, including Officer Michael Ziemba and Blue, and North Adams Police officers but no suspect was found.
The house had been forcibly entered and property stolen. The state police Crimes Services Section was contacted to assist in the investigation.
Williamstown Police are asking residents to be alert to unusual or suspicious vehicles and to contact the police at 413-458-5733 to report any suspicious activity.