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Berkshire Group Organizes Violence Reduction Forum

A group of concerned citizens is organizing an event this week to address the subject of reducing violent crime in Berkshire County.

The group called Berkshire Citizens for Peace and Justice this week is organizing a meeting involving area residents, professionals, and public safety officials to discuss a wide variety of topics related to school and community violence.

Event organizer Don Lathrop said he has long considered the need for a way for community members to come together and discuss issues of violence he has witnessed in Pittsfield and the surrounding cities and towns.

Lathrop said that news of recent mass shootings including the December attack on students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut did serve as one motivational factor to hold the meeting.

Brian Trautman, another organizer for the event and member of BCP&J, said that frequent news in local media about a variety of violent crime including shootings and robberies in Berkshire County served to motivate the group to sponsor the gathering.

Berkshire County District Attorney David Capeless told WAMC that although he has seen a reduction in crime in Berkshire County through his office over the past six years, community violence remains a serious issue.

Capeless will present at the meeting about work his office has done in the community to reduce violence. But he added that violence remains a societal issue, and that it takes the will of an entire community to set an example for the next generation in order to reduce crime.

Speakers at the event will also include public safety officials including Pittsfield Chief of Police Michael Wynn and Pittsfield safety officer Michael Ortega. Ortega will speak about youth issues including school bullying and the local DARE program. A representative from the non-profit Elizabeth Freeman Center is scheduled to discuss ways the organization works to reduce and make awareness of domestic violence. Staff from the Pittsfield-based Brien Center will discuss issues of drug abuse and its link to crime. Presenters will also focus on animal cruelty, as well as other issues.

After the presentations, attendees will participate in small group discussions.

Brian Trautman added that he hopes the gathering will help establish a community platform for future efforts.

The gathering is free and open to the public, and will be held at Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield on Thursday, February 28th at 7 p.m. in the Susan B. Anthony student center.

Any questions about this event should be addressed to Don Lathrop atdlathrop@berkshirecc.edu or at 413-236-4618.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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