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Public Safety Initiatives Target Illegal Guns


A series of proposals aimed at cracking down on crime are pending before the city council in western Massachusetts' largest city. Several of the public safety initiatives proposed in Springfield are intended to reduce illegal guns, and are being considered in the aftermath of recent horrific gun violence. WAMC's Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.

        The package of public safety proposals include an ordinance that would allow the city to sieze and sell vehicles from which illegal guns are confiscated. It would establish a police gun squad, along with an anonymous tip line to help sweep illegal firearms off the streets and urge the creation of a special court devoted to gun-related crime.

        City Councilor Timothy Allen co-sponsored the measures with city councilor Michael Fenton. Their package was introduced before the recent spate of high profile gun violence. This included the killing of a small town police chief during a drug raid in New Hampshire. The next day, there was  gun fight between a heavily armed man and police in Chicopee during which a Massachusetts State Trooper was wounded. The gunman wound up dead.

         Four people have been wounded by gunfire in Springfield in recent days, one fatally. One of the non fatally injuried was a woman who was hit by a stray bullet as she lay in bed with her child.

        The councilors say there is a sense the bad guys are winning, and there is a need to be more proactive against crime.

        Allen says he expects the anti crime package to be thoroughly vetted at a public hearings.

        Its expected  that funds to pay for neighborhood anti crime initiatives could come from the sale of vehicles involved in gun crimes. Expansion of gun courts in Massachusetts has been stalled by budget cuts in the court system.

        The anti-crime resolutions include  some measures not strictly related to firearms, such as an endorsement of pending state legislation on drop out prevention, and required training for nightclub bouncers how to de-escalate trouble and work cooperatively with police.

        Springfield police in some high crime neighborhoods are pursuing what they say is a non traditional approach. Small units of police officers are deployed in a defined area of just a few blocks to work closely with business owners and residents. Police Commissioner William Fitchet says this can solve a surprising number of problems very easily.

        David Trehey, a sporting goods store owner welcomes the law enforcement attention in the Forest Park neighborhood.

        Not every business owner is happy with some of Springfield's recent anti-crime initiatives. Two nightclub owners sued the city over its new 1 AM entertainment curfew. It was ordered by the mayor with the endorsement of police as a way to cut down on closing time violence in the entertainment district, a downtown area with a high concentration of bars and nightclubs. The suit says its unfairly hurting business.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.