Large Crowd At College Public Safety Forum On Recent Gunfire
At a packed forum on the campus of American International College today, the mayor of Springfield, Massachusetts vowed to restore a sense of safety following recent gunfire near the college.
AIC Campus Security Director David Kuzmeski shared with the audience of students and faculty police reports about gun fire in the last four weeks on streets near the AIC campus, including two incidents where bullets apparently ricocheted off the pavement and struck buildings on campus. No one was injured. Authorities said there is no evidence the college is a target of violence. Rival gangs are believed to be the source of the gunfire.
Audience members during the 90 minute forum with top college officials, Mayor Domenic Sarno, and Police Commissioner John Barbieri, for the most part, praised the school’s response to the incidents and the stepped- up police presence in the neighborhood announced by the city officials.
Jennifer Perchalski, a freshman from Philadelphia said it seems the campus and local police have things under control.
" I don't feel unsafe at all. Yeah your going to see a couple of bullet holes and hear about stuff that happened, but it is no big deal," she said after the forum.
Brad Gardini, a junior from the Boston area, said college officials have been forthright with emails to students and parents and security has been stepped up.
"Our campus police have done great patrols and if we need it they've even taken us to our cars or back to our dorms. Its been great," he said.
AIC President Vincent Maniaci thanked Sarno and Barbieri for coming to the campus and said he has great trust and confidence in the city administration and police department.
"The campus community understands very well the campus is safe, the adjacent areas we can not control which is why the collaboration with the city is so important," he said.
Maniaci said over the last couple of years the number of security cameras on campus has tripled, lighting has been added, the number of campus police officers doubled and their training improved.
Mayor Sarno, who held a private meeting in City Hall Thursday with local, state and federal law enforcement authorities,vowed a “full-court press” to combat the gang violence in the Mason Square neighborhood where AIC’s campus is located.
Barbieri said the gun violence has its roots in a long running “blood feud” between rival gangs that flared up about four weeks ago after a Springfield man was murdered in Hartford, CT.
"It is hard for us to arrest our way out of a problem, but we are going to work on arresting those prolific offenders who continue to carry guns, continue to be involved in drug violence, who are willing to shoot people for perceived lack of respect," he said
The police commissioner appealed for the public to help identify the gunmen.
Authorities, last month, launched the initiative known as C-3 policing to disrupt gang activity in the Mason Square neighborhood. It is modeled in part on tactics used by the U.S. Military to combat insurgents in Iraq. But, police caution, it takes time for the efforts to produce results.
The program was introduced in Springfield’s North End neighborhood six years ago, where crime rates plummeted.