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Task Force Dedicated To Violence Prevention Observes 20th Anniversary

        Massachusetts is going to have a so-called “ three strikes” crime law.  Governor Deval Patrick says he will sign a controversial crime bill aimed at keeping repeat violent criminals off the streets. People working to prevent violence in one western Massachusetts city say the real solution to improved public safety is community partnerships.  WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.

       Governor Patrick announced he would sign the crime bill that takes away the possibility of parole from people who go to prison for a third time for serious violent crimes, including murder, rape and home invasion.  The governor avoided a showdown over the crime bill on the last day of the legislature’s two year session.

       The crime bill passed by overwhelming margins in both the House and Senate. It was strongly supported by police and relatives of violent crime victims.  Opponents claim it will lead to higher incarceration  rates for minorities and increase  prison costs.

       Darryl Moss, an aide to the mayor of Springfield, who focuses on youth issues says tougher sentences  is not the answer to reducing violent crime.

       A coalition  dedicated to violence prevention in Springfield is marking its 20th anniversary. The Mayor’s Citywide Violence Prevention Task Force  is made up of more than two dozen representatives from government  agencies, law enforcement,  schools, churches, businesses, arts, culture and athletic organizations.

       Moss says the common thread is an emphasis on social values.

       Task force members gathered in Springfield’s Forest Park Tuesday night for picnic to celebrate peace and neighborliness.

       Tony Pettaway, of the city’s department of Health and Human Services, has been a task force member for 15 of its 20 years. He said it has evolved from an early emphasis on gangs, to school based violence and now bullying

       Reverend  Morris Stimage-Norwood, senior pastor of the Greater New Life Church, which operates a substance abuse and mental health clinic, says there is a pressing need to intervene with young people in order to reduce violence.

       Governor Patrick has made youth violence prevention a priority. Funding for one program to combat gangs, the Shannon Grant Program, will increase by almost $3 million this year to a total of $8.2 million.

       Earl Harrington, the coordinator of the Shannon Grant program in Springfield says funding goes to both law enforcement and community based agencies

       Seventeen cities in Massachusetts are eligible for Shannon Grants because of high rates of violent crime.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.