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Pittsfield Home Struck By Lightning

Staff Reports
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Lightning stuck an Onota Street home Tuesday night, setting it on fire and damaging the electrical systems.
According to Deputy Chief Michael Polidoro, three engines responded to a structure fire at 24 Onota St. and upon arrival found a small fire. Firefighters quickly snuffed out the blaze, which damaged the exterior siding and the utilities on the two-family structure.
Onota Street was closed to traffic from West Street to Schuyler Street for more than an hour while three engines, Police, Berkshire Gas, the building inspector and Western Mass Electric Co. responded in the thunderstorm. 
The lightning struck the home at about 9:30 p.m.

Pittsfield Police Release Cause Of Fatal Crash at PHS

Staff Reports
The car was seen speeding through the intersection of Second and East Streets.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Police say the driver of the car that slammed into the front of Pittsfield High School in January was high on PCP.
The January crash killed Tariq Sally, 34, and Ernest Duck Jr., 37.
The two were in a white 2013 Nassan Altima, owned by Hertz Corp., that was traveling more than 100 mph through the Second Street intersection when it slammed into the wall outside of the school. 
Police on Wednesday said toxicology showed the driver, Duck, was found to have phencyclidine (PCP) and marijuana in his system. PCP is commonly mixed with marijuana and has hallucinogenic properties. 
Duck reportedly had 270 nanograms per milliliter in his system, police say, and studies from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has shown that patients with half that dosage have shown psychotic behavior — such as mania, depression and schizophrenia.
"Based upon all available evidence, it is apparent that the cause of the crash is the fact that Mr. Duck Jr. was under the influence of PCP and was not able to safely operate a motor vehicle," according to the police report.
Police have also ruled out that the vehicle itself was defective. Police say the vehicle was being actively steered and was negotiated through traffic as it approached East Street. The vehicle's airbag control recorded no diagnostic trouble codes for any component of the throttle or braking system. The vehicle accelerated for the five seconds leading to the crash with only some last second braking, police said.
Duck was not wearing a seat belt at the time; Salley was.
Witnesses also attested that the vehicle was not being chased, despite multiple rumors following the crash that they were.
The crash not only triggered a massive response from the police and fire departments but also fueled an array of rumors as to what led to the crash. Police had suspicions then of the cause but hadn't released any information until this week, after medical examination reports were returned.
Because of a large influx of family and friends of the victims descending on the hospital at the time, Berkshire Medical Center implemented additional security measures, which fueled even more speculation.
Hospital officials at the time said some secondary doors were locked earlier than normal and the Berkshire County sheriff's department assisted hospital security in ensuring access during the "considerable influx" of people to the emergency room.

Pittsfield Firefighters Battle 2-Alarm Blaze on Daniels Ave.

Staff Reports
A condominium building on Daniels Avenue suffered extensive damage after a fire on Monday night.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A two-alarm fire on Daniels Avenue late Monday night ripped through three-story building and left two firefighters reeling from heat exhaustion.

According to the report by Deputy Chief Bruce Kilmer, firefighters responded with five engines and a ladder truck to the 133 Daniels Ave. about 10:37 p.m. There was heavy fire showing on the front of the wood-frame building near the corner of Madison Avenue.

"Upon our arrival, aggressive attack with landlines by first arriving crews slowed the fire," wrote Kilmer.

There was no one in the building during the fire but three families were displaced and being aided by the Red Cross with temporary housing.

Two firefighters were treated for heat exhaustion and dehydration, one at the scene and the other after being transported to Berkshire Medical Center.

The building is considered a major loss because of fire, smoke and water damage. It sustained severe structural damage to the first floor that extended into the second floor and partway into the third floor. The building was insured.

The structure contained condominium units developed by Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity.

The cause of the blaze is under investigation.


Berkshire Gas Reports Customers Getting Fraudulent Calls

Staff Reports

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Berkshire Gas is reporting some of its business customers are being contacted by scammers claiming they are behind on their accounts and demanding immediate payment.

According to Berkshire Gas, the callers are asking for payment by credit over the phone.
Several of the fraudulent calls have showed up as originating from 617-419-5406 in the recipients caller ID. Berkshire Gas said it has reported this information to the state police, the attorney general's office and the Department of Public Utilities.

The scam sounds similar to one last year in which callers targeted local businesses claiming to be from National Grid and demanding they purchase money cards to pay their overdue bills.  

Berkshire Gas says it never seeks immediate payment of overdue accounts by credit card, or any other method, over the telephone.  If you receive such a call, contact their customer information center at 1-800-292-5012 to report it.

If a Berkshire Gas customer ever doubts the authenticity of any call that they receive from Berkshire Gas, they should hang up and call the Berkshire Gas customer information center at 1-800-292-5012 to verify that the call was actually form Berkshire Gas, or one of its authorized representatives.


Pittsfield: Property Crimes High; Violent Crime Down

Staff Reports
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Typically in May, the city's police force sees an average of 15 aggravated assault cases. This year, it saw none.
That statistic highlights a shrinking level of violent crime in Pittsfield. However, property crime is still pacing at an above-average rate.
According to the city's May CityStat report, property crime was 28 percent higher than the average for that month over the last five years. Property crimes this year are on pace to be 17 percent more than in 2013.
The silver lining is that while the city is pacing ahead of previous years, the pace has slowed since April.
"Compared to last month’s report, with the exception only of larceny from motor vehicles and persons, each category has shown significant improvement. In April, only one category showed a better-than-average result, and this month, 3 categories have," reads the most recently published report. 
In April, the city was trending to see a 91 percent increase in shoplifting but that dropped in May to 50 percent. Larceny from buildings were 60 percent higher in April than last year at that time but now those numbers have reversed (from 16 to 6) and are looking to be 50 percent lower than the five-year average.
"Unfortunately, the rash of burglaries that started in April continued through May, bringing our burglary and motor vehicle larceny cases up from last month," reads the report.
Larceny from a motor vehicle is trending 125 percent more than the five-year average - up from 44 to 57 during five-month period. Burglaries in May were even higher than in April by 36 percent, uo from 44 to 60.
While property crimes continue to hold steady at above-average rates, violent crime is pacing at the lowest rate in the last five years. So far in 2014, police have responded to 34 cases of violent crime — down 35 percent from the 52 that officers responded to at this point in 2013.
Only four cases of violent crime have been reported in May — two rapes, an arson and a robbery. Both robbery and rape are trending above last year's totals but still at a rate 50 percent less than the five-year average.
"Consistent with the past several months, rape and robbery cases have shown increases since last year, but not compared to the five-year average. All other areas have either shown no change or a change for the better across the board," the report reads. "The most impressive change that can be seen is in the amount of aggravated assault cases. The average number of aggravated assaults for the month of May is 15. This May, we had 0 aggravated assaults. Moreover, Pittsfield is down 82 percent this year compared to last year for aggravated assault."
The full report is available below. April's report can be found here.

Pittsfield Police May 2014 CityStat Report

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