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Mayoral candidates John Krol, left, and Peter Marchetti debate at an NAACP sponsored forum on Monday night at Conte Community School.

Pittsfield Mayoral Candidates Talk Safety, Policing at NAACP Debate

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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The debate covered a range of topics, including public safety. 

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Mayoral candidates Peter Marchetti and John Krol expanded on some of their plans for the city during a forum Monday hosted by the Berkshire NAACP.

With about two weeks left until the general election, the candidates debated the management of schools, economic development, finances, and more to a packed crowd at Conte Community School.

Much conversation revolved around public safety and policing in the downtown and beyond. This has been a widely debated topic in the wake of the state's police reform, the exacerbation of mental illness during the pandemic, and the fatal police shooting of Pittsfield resident Miguel Estrella last year.

Krol advocated for policing in the downtown to address safety concerns from residents and business owners, believing it is the start of revitalizing the corridor. He reported that his wife was recently frightened by an aggressive individual asking for money on McKay Street and that there was no law enforcement around to help.

"This is happening each and every day. There are different types of individuals who are there. There are panhandlers who are in need and they need resources, there are individuals who are part of an operation on the streets and they're making a great deal of money, and then there are people who are more aggressive," he said.

"So yes, we absolutely need foot patrol in downtown Pittsfield. It's something that I've been talking about since the very beginning of the campaign."

Marchetti said addressing the behaviors and activities present in the downtown involves more than a police presence.

"It involves mental health professionals to be downtown helping these folks," he said.

"If we really want to put an end to it we need to make it very clear to the people of Pittsfield that when you see someone sitting on a street corner, take that $20 that you would want to give that person, put it in your pocket, and write that check to the local charity that can help them."

Krol has been advocating for "boots on the ground" throughout his campaign. The candidate equated this term with community policing, which he said is a core of his view on public safety.

He cited the community outreach work of Officer Darren Derby and said there are more members of the Pittsfield Police Department who have the ability to interact with the community in that way and improve its relationship with the force.

"It's a very simple philosophy and that is that a police officer gets out of his or her cruiser and puts his or her feet on the ground. That is the description," he said. "So it is community policing. It means that individuals in our Police Department are out."

Traditionally, "boots on the ground" is defined as ground troops who are in active service in a military operation though it has become associated with any task group.

"I think if you have a conversation with some number of veterans, boots on the ground has a totally different connotation that is negative," Marchetti commented.

He feels that the city needs to change the philosophy of policing by ensuring trust in residents and making sure that there are additional first responders such as mental health professionals to properly address calls.

This has been an effort over the past year as the city expanded its co-responder program.

"One of the things I hear all the time in the campaign is the word trust," he said.

"Well if we have people in Pittsfield that can't trust members of our Pittsfield police force what are we going to change that? What are we going to do? Those barriers may not be real but if it's perceived to be real, they are real. What can we do to break down those barriers?"

Marchetti pointed to his proposed ordinance that bans people from standing on median strips for public safety. Though it is not directed at panhandlers, it would also curb that type of activity along with sign holders of all kinds.

Krol supports anything that the city can do to reduce panhandling activity.

"Look, when it comes down to it, yes, you can't target panhandlers based on freedom of speech but you can say for the safety of individuals on the medians that is not allowed," he said.

The candidates were also asked how they would change any negative perceptions of Pittsfield being unsafe. Unlike the prevention of median strip activity, the two did not agree on this topic.

Marchetti acknowledged that there are issues that need to be addressed but said the city also needs to look at the bigger picture. During a debate at the Colonial Theatre last week, Krol reported that people are leaving the downtown to have dinner in Lenox because they feel unsafe.

"I think there is mistake, number one, because we are feeding into that perception of that reality and we're not acknowledging where we are," he said.

"We should be encouraging everybody to stay in downtown and as mayor I will do what it takes to, as one of the downtown business owners said to me over and over, make sure the downtown is safe and clean."

Krol said the city cannot dismiss reality and that it is not just a perception issue if people are feeling it and believing it.

"When people don't feel safe, we have to acknowledge it," he said. "Don't sweep it under the rug, don't explain why they're wrong. That's wrong."

Tags: debate,   election 2023,   

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Wigglesworth Leads Pittsfield to 2-0 Mark in Section 1 Tourney

By Leland Sports
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A combined no-hitter from Weston Wigglesworth and Mateo Fox led Pittsfield over Westfield by a final score of 9-0, in the Little League Section 1 Tournament on Friday.
Pittsfield stayed in the winner's bracket of the double-elimination tournament and will host the survivor of the loser’s bracket on Sunday afternoon for the sectional title and a berth in the state final four.
Wigglesworth continues his summer of destruction, cashing in 35 pitches with five strikeouts, as well as batting 1-for-3 with yet another home run.
Pittsfield’s offense carried over from its Thursday win over Athol, recording runs in every inning until the very end.
Westfield struggled defensively and offensively against Pittsfield, committing multiple throwing errors and not being able to make much contact against Pittsfield’s pitching.
“Weston went out there and did what he does best, this team builds a lot off of him,” Pittsfield coach Ty Perrault said.
“We bat him first for the single reason of him getting more at bats each game to drive in runs and get on base. Plus his pitching really puts him all together as our overall well rounded player. He will be pitching against whoever we face on Sunday, and they will be practicing tomorrow morning lightly to prepare.”
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