PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Police Chief Michael Wynn and Mayor Linda Tyer confirmed that gun violence is not only a problem in Pittsfield at this present time but also in other communities.
"I am a part of the Massachusetts mayor's association, we meet on a monthly basis and criminal activity and gun violence is a topic among many mayors," Tyer said to the City Council on Tuesday at its first in-person meeting since March of 2020. "And we're all struggling with the same issues and there are a whole variety of strategies that many communities use. Our community is using some creative strategies too that other communities wish they have access to."
Wynn added that a majority of the city's crime comes from the South and West of Pittsfield - from Connecticut and New York. But resources come from the Eastern part of the state.
Both agreed that a strong relationship with local human service programs is a useful tool that Pittsfield is fortunate to have. They believe that these programs, assistance from the state, technology, and increased police presence in hotspot areas are the solution to the increased violence.
In late June, The City Council requested that Tyer and Wynn give a presentation on gun violence mitigation strategies in the city after a number of shooting incidents occurred in a condensed period of time.
From May 12 through mid-June, there were 13 shootings in Pittsfield, most of which happened in the city's West Side.
These recent shootings include an early June incident on First Street that left a Pittsfield man with multiple gunshot wounds and another in which a Pittsfield man — Jesus Lugo — was arrested for shooting a firearm in the direction of a Linden Street address from the hood of a car.
In another incident on Francis Avenue, a motor vehicle containing a mother and two young children was struck by gunfire as well as a second unoccupied vehicle.
"I strongly believe that the combination of human service interventions along with law enforcement is equally necessary for our city to be safe, just, and thriving," Tyer said.
She highlighted local human services including the family health services provided by 18 Degrees, abuse and neglect counseling from the Berkshire County Kids Place, substance and abuse prevention services from The Brien Center, and shelter and abuse counseling by The Elizabeth Freeman Center.
"Over the past four years, we have invested more than $825,000 in these programs and supported these human service agencies to do the work to help local residents who may become victims of crime, or engage in criminal activity without those safety networks in place," she said.
Reportedly, the city also receives a significant amount of grants through the police department for the Elizabeth Freeman Center, and 18 Degrees.
"I want to point out, as I did during our budget hearings, that Pittsfield is the only community that makes these specifically targeted investments in our community partners," She said. "If the other Berkshire communities joined this effort, it would be a force multiplier for our human service agencies, we serve residents living in every Berkshire city and town."
On Wynn's side, the police department has increased presence in hotspot areas, the support of the Massachusetts state police, and utilizes Shotspotter -the city's gunshot detection technology- to respond to incidents as quickly as possible.
He was not able to disclose too many strategies that are being used to prosecute offenders of these crimes because there are open investigations remaining.
Councilor At Large Earl Persip III asked Wynn if his department has everything they need to address this issue or if there are other communities that have strategies that may be useful to Pittsfield.
Wynn replied that they are not "apples to apples" comparisons, meaning that each community is different and requires its own procedures. The best assistance that the police can receive from both the administration and residents, he said, is to report any suspicious activity or crimes.
After being queried by Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi, Tyer reported to the council that she would reach out to federal agencies concerning the city's gun violence on the following day.
"There's a constantly shifting landscape when it comes to crime, gun violence, community sentiment on how to respond," Tyer said. "I want to reassure you and the community that we are constantly engaged in this conversation. We have some credible, highly trained police officers, our command staff, with creative ideas about how to respond in a manner that will address these concerns."
In other news, during the meeting Commissioner of Public Utilities Ricardo Morales confirmed that Community Eco Power LLC, the company that the city contracts with for recycling, has filed for bankruptcy.
At the last city council meeting, the panel tabled a request to enter into a new agreement with CEP because of concern over a clause in the contract for termination that requires the company to notify the city 150 days before shutting down or discontinuing service.
The council was originally supposed to vote on the agreement at this meeting but did not because of the bankruptcy filing.
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PITTSFIELD, Mass — Berkshire Community College (BCC) announced the addition of ten new staff and faculty members, in addition to three promotions.
New to BCC
Chris Bodnar has joined BCC as Director of Procurement in the Administration and Finance Division, bringing 20 years of experience in buying, purchasing, planning and inventory management with KB Toys and a hardware store chain. He has studied business administration at the University of Connecticut, Houston Baptist University, Three Rivers Community College in Norwich, CT, and Berkshire Community College. A resident of Hillsdale, NY, he lives with his girlfriend Noreen and has three grown daughters.
Lauri Byrnes has joined BCC as Administrative Assistant for Academic Advising in the One Stop Center for Student Success. Previously, she was the part-time office coordinator for Politis Family Chiropractic in Pittsfield for the past 10 years, along with other part-time positions she held throughout Berkshire County while attending college. She graduated from Berkshire Community College in 2017 with an associate degree in human services and from Maria College in 2021 with an associate of applied science degree in occupational health sciences. She and her husband Andy, who have five adult children, live in Lanesborough.
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