PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Authorities are offering a reward up to $5,000 for information leading to the person or persons who started a fire late Wednesday morning on Linden Street.
The vacant four-family structure at 213 Linden St. incurred what fire officials said was "moderate damage" to the first floor and basement.
Firefighters responded to the scene at 11:49 a.m. after a passerby noted smoke coming from the building. Upon arrival, they found heavy smoke throughout the building and flames in the basement extending to the first floor.
The call went to two alarms and all on-duty personnel were called to the scene; off-duty firefighters were called in to man the stations.
It took about 45 minutes to bring the fire under control. Five engines and a ladder truck responded to the scene and Deputy Fire Chief Mark Cancilla was the officer in charge.
No civilians were injured but one firefighter incurred a muscle strain.
The state fire marshal's office and city fire and police investigators ruled the cause of the fire as arson. Anyone with information about the fire should call 1-800-682-9229.
Pittsfield: Property Crime Up, Violent Down in April
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — An "unusually high" number of commercial burglaries occurred during April, according to a report released from the Police Department.
The number of burglaries more than doubled over March. The month of April saw 43 burglaries compared to just 21 in March, which has been mostly characterized by a large number of motor vehicle burglaries.
"Although the rash of motor vehicle burglaries that we saw in March died down considerably this month, it was unfortunately replaced with an unusually high number of commercial burglaries," the Police Department wrote in a monthly "city stats" report.
Burglaries are still lower than they were at this point last year. In 2013, there were 131 and, so far this year, there have been 109. However, the number of burglaries in April are 23 percent above the five-year average.
"The average increase for burglaries between March and April is five cases, but this year we have had a 22-case increase. This spike, however, can be attributed to a rash of commercial burglaries we have had this past month," the report reads.
In nearly all types of property crime — from larceny to shop lifting to motor vehicle theft — the city was above the five-year average in the month of April. The only crime trending below is larceny from a person.
Overall, April saw 135 cases of property crime compared to 100 last month. The property crime rate for April was 48 percent more than the five-year average.
Property crime has been on an uptick each month, but violent crime is significantly down.
"Recovering from some slipups last month, April has seen decreases in violent crime across the board," the report reads. "In all categories, April 2014 showed a 5 percent or higher decrease compared to the 5-year average (except for homicide, which has an average of 0 cases). The most notable difference, again, is the drastically smaller number of aggravated assault cases. Over the past five years, April usually brings an average of 12 aggravated assault incidents and this year, we have only had one."
There were two rapes, one robbery and one aggravated assault case in the city in April. The four total cases is down from nine last month.
Violent crime overall is down 78 percent in the month of April than the five-year average.
Update: David Chalue was sentenced by Judge C. Jeffrey Kinder on Monday, May 19, to serve consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction for the murders of David Glasser, Edward Frampton and Robert Chadwell.
He was given concurrent 8 to 10-year sentences on the other charges of kidnapping and intimidation of a witness.
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — A jury found David Chalue, 47, guilty of murder, kidnapping and intimidation of a witness in the highly publicized triple murder.
Chalue was found guilty on three counts of first degree murder, three counts of kidnapping and three counts of intimidation of a witness after the jury deliberated over five days.
Judge Jeffrey Kinder ordered that he be held without bail pending sentencing on Monday at 2 p.m. in Hampden Superior Court.
Chalue is one of four men facing charges in the kidnapping and murder of David Glasser, 44, Edward Frampton, 58, and Robert Chadwell. The three men went missing from their Pittsfield apartment on August 28, 2011 and their bodies were found in Becket that September.
Adam Lee Hall, 34, was the primary defendant and he was found guilty and sentenced to three consecutive life sentences without the chance at parole. Caivus Veiovis, 31, is facing the same charges but has not gone to trial.
David Casey, 62, of Canaan, N.Y., is faced with multiple charges of accessory after the fact for allegedly providing the equipment to bury the three bodies.
Pittsfield Man Hospitalized After Collision with Cruiser
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A city man was sent to the hospital last Wednesday night after being hit by a police cruiser.
George Johnston, 58, was transported to Berkshire Medical Center after being hit at the intersection of First and Orchard streets on April 24.
Police said Johnston was on foot and crossing First Street at approximately 9:58 p.m. when Lt. Mike Winston collided with him in a fully marked cruiser. Winston was southbound on First Street; there is one crosswalk on the south side if the intersection. The report did not state if Johnston was in the crosswalk when the accident occurred.
Johnston was reportedly treated for non-life threatening injuries; Winston was unhurt.
The Police Department's accident reconstruction team is currently investigating the accident and anyone with information is asked to call the traffic bureau at 413-448-9700, Ext. 338.
AG Claims Pittsfield Travel Company Ripped Off Consumers
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The attorney general is accusing a city-based travel company of deceptive business practices.
Attorney General Martha Coakley is suing Berkshire Concepts LLC for allegedly misleading customers into paying thousands of dollars for services that were never provided. Coakley is seeking more than $278,000 from the company.
Coakley alleges that Berkshire Concepts, Netrate Concepts and CRW Marketing "used high pressure sales tactics to offer consumers free travel incentives and extreme discounts on travel but instead charged consumers thousands of dollars for access to a 'proprietary software' database that failed to provide the promised discounts."
The company is owned by Charles Whiteman and Dennis and Daniel Merritt of Pittsfield.
"Vacation or travel scams offer free or discounted deals that often never materialize, and our office alleges these companies stole thousands of dollars from consumers through their deceptive memberships," Coakley said in a press release issued on Monday. "While many travel opportunities are genuine, we want to educate the public as much as possible to protect themselves and be wary of deals that sound too good to be true."
According to the complaint issued in court on Tuesday, between February 2011 and April 2013, the companies sent postcards to several residents offering a free cruise or airline tickets for attending a presentation. Other mailings told residents that they had won free travel and needed to claim the prize.
However, the free travel required hundreds of dollars in taxes and fees to redeem. The company also claimed that their website provided customers with direct access to travel tickets at wholesale price. Membership for that access cost thousands of dollars and the company failed to provide log-in information until after the cancellation period expired.
One family paid nearly $6,000 for the 'platinum level' membership, Coakley said. The website did not provide the deals promised during the presentation. Others found the website offered more expensive travel rates than other free websites.
According to the complaint, the company collected thousands of dollars from at least 25 consumers. None of the customers received refunds from the companies and Coakley is seeking more than $108,000 in restitution and $170,000 in civil penalties.
Coakley alleges that the company violated consumer protection laws by advertising 'free' travel while requiring customers to pay taxes and fees, advertising non-existent 'wholesale' discounts and holding customers to a three-day cancellation period without allowing the customer to have access to the website.
The attorney general's office provided the following tips to help residents avoid scams:
Calls or letters saying consumers have won "prizes" or "awards" for a contest that they never entered are almost always ploys.
Always read the fine print on all "prizes" and "gifts" to determine any costs associated with them. It is the consumer’s responsibility to pay for anything not specifically mentioned.
Walk away from high pressure sales tactics including "one-day" or "one-time" offers. Reputable companies will never pressure customers to make immediate decisions, and will allow time to consider the terms of an offer.
Search Internet sites for customer feedback, and call the attorney general's office to determine if other consumers have filed complaints.
Get the details of any offer in writing and review the terms before deciding to sign up or pay a deposit.
Compare promised rates with travel agents, airlines or available Internet-based services. Determine the company that is actually providing the goods or services being promised.
Get the details behind vague promises that packages include stays at "five-star" resorts or sailing on "luxury" cruise ships.
Find out all possible unexpected expenses including hotel costs, meals and transportation. What will the company do if hotel and other accommodations are completely booked?
After determining that a business is reputable, use a credit card to purchase the trip. Credit card companies often provide some protection and can help consumers dispute charges.