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Pittsfield Community To Meet And Lay Out Action Plan Following Teen Shooting

Jim Levulis

The city of Pittsfield is holding a second community conversation tonight in the wake of a gang-related shooting in August. The broad-daylight shooting happened near a busy intersection during the morning rush hour and involved two teenagers, sending one to the hospital.

The meeting will bring the community together again to explain what’s been done since an initial meeting drew more than 250 people in August. At that meeting, Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn explained that youth and gang violence is a community problem that demands a community solution.

“I’m concerned,” Wynn said. “Honestly, I’m more than concerned. I’m at the point of being scared because our investigations are showing that we’re reaching a point where people think its okay to not to cooperate. People think it’s OK not to provide information. People think it’s OK to know that something bad is about to happen and not tell somebody. We understand there are concerns about retribution and we understand you may not want to be involved, we get that. We’ll take it anonymously. But every one of these young gang members who is leaving home everyday armed, somebody who loves that child knows they have a gun and if they have a problem and if they are looking to solve it themselves. If you don’t tell us before it happens, we’ll be knocking on your door after it happens either to deliver bad news or to ask you to come in and sit in the interview when we’re interviewing them on a charge of attempted murder.”

The August 18th shooting happened around 9 a.m. near the intersection of Tyler and First St. It sent 17-year-old Deshon Taylor to the hospital. Pittsfield Police arrested a 15-year-old male believed to be the shooter. His name has not been released because he is a juvenile. 

Over the past month, various committees have formed while neighborhood groups have met to discuss ways to keep teenagers from heading down a violent and criminal path. The city’s gang prevention coordinator Adam Hinds says a city-wide mentoring program will be created.

“What we found is that they exist but they’re often within schools,” Hinds said. “So certain schools will have the ability for community members to come in and mentor their students, but it’s very specific to certain institutions so there isn’t a citywide program that people can sign up for.  So that’s one of the things that have been identified and Berkshire United Way is taking the lead in really trying to develop this program.”

The lack of jobs or better alternatives for youth took up much of the conservation at the August meeting. In response, one initiative that will be laid out in a Community Action Plan after tonight’s meeting involves business owners collaborating to expand the city’s summer jobs program, subject to federal cuts in recent years. It offered roughly 50 positions this past summer. Other efforts include faith-based organizations creating after-school homework clubs and caretaker groups. Meanwhile, the Pittsfield Community Connection, a state-funded program focused on gang prevention by involving teens in positive activities, has continued. Hinds says since the August shooting, teens have been open about potential violence.

“We’ve been approached by teens who have been concerned about the awareness of youth violence,” Hinds said. “The bad news is that it’s a conversation that’s taking place regularly because of the potential for violence. It presents an opportunity to really engage with the youth of the city to see what can be done.”

In early August, the city reactivated the dormant 25-member Youth Commission and created a Youth Coalition because of the amount of interest. Mayor Dan Bianchi says hearing from the city’s youth is needed.   

“I think we’re still going to have to do a better job,” Bianchi said. “We’re going to have to network through them to hear from a much broader population of young people. But I’m confident that conservations are going to be healthy, they have been so far, and helpful.”

The meeting starts at 6 at Conte Community School.

Jim is WAMC’s Associate News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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