PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A group of residents has petitioned the City Council to have police officers do regular foot patrols.
Will Singleton presented the petition to the City Council on Tuesday. He believes regular walking patrols will greatly improve officer's relationship with the residents.
"We can't afford not to take this step," Singleton said. "We think police foot patrols will bring great benefits to our community."
Singleton wants officers assigned to walking beats. He said the officer will get to know everybody on the beat much better and vice versa. He said officers will "be walking encyclopedias of who's who" in the neighborhood. As residents get to know the officer, trust will build between them.
"The officer will be up close and personal with every element of the community," Singleton said.
Resident Linda Kelly said, "this makes a huge difference in the attitude of the community." She said when she lived in Boston, walking beats reduced the number of crimes -- from petty larceny to drug trafficking to breaking and entering.
Residents Craig Gaetani and Alex Blumin also voiced support for the petition.
This isn't the first time the city has been petitioned for walking beats in recent years. In 2014, downtown merchants got together to ask for foot patrols. However, that was faced with resistance by those in the Police Department and the former administration, both of which said patrol officers have too many calls to handle throughout the city to be dedicated to being on foot downtown.
Former Mayor Daniel Bianchi ordered specific shifts for walking downtown, which was on overtime. But, that quickly grew in cost
and was stopped. Downtown Pittsfield Inc. teamed up with the Police Department to create a downtown ambassador program.
That brings extra eyes to the downtown without taxing the Police Department itself.
This year, Mayor Linda Tyer and Police Chief Michael Wynn launched what is being called a "park and walk initiative"
in which officers are required to leave their cruisers and walk a portion of the beat for 15 minutes.
Singleton said, "that is a start, but not enough." The City Council referred the petition to the Public Health and Safety Subcommittee for more discussion.
In other business, the city, the Pittsfield Economic Development Agency, and Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corp. have finalized the intergovernmental agreements to share services. The three organizations are combining efforts to hire a business development manager who will be in charge of specifically seeking out businesses to help them relocate to the city or grow in the city.
"I would expect this will launch in the first quarter," said PEDA Chairman Mick Callahan.
A candidate search for the business development manager is currently underway. According to PEDA member Pamela Green, seven finalists have been interviewed and a second round is expected next week.
"I think we have some really great candidates out there," Green said.